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Hundreds seek social equity cannabis business license in first 24 hours of program

cannabis products on display
A variety of cannabis products are displayed during the grand opening for the general public of the Sweetest Grass Dispensary by Leech Lake Cannabis Company of the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe on June 6 in Walker.
Erica Dischino for MPR News file

More than 700 Minnesotans began applying for preapproval of adult-use marijuana business licenses within the first 24 hours of the social equity licensing program commencing.

The Minnesota Office of Cannabis Management is giving social equity applicants — ranging from veterans to new farmers to those who’ve faced historical harms from the war on drugs — a head start on business licenses.

The office has encouraged people to submit their applications early. Interim Director Charlene Briner told MPR News Tuesday morning that the hundreds of applications indicate a “significant level of interest” in the budding industry.

However, verification is just the first step.

“And it doesn't necessarily mean that all of the people who have entered the system and applied for that status will actually follow through and submit a full license. So that remains to be seen,” Briner said. “But I think we're excited about the high level of activity.”

Full license applications open to entrepreneurs July 24. OCM will review applicants’ business plans, safety and security plans, labor peace agreements, ownership structure, capitalization tables and more during its vetting process. Then, successful applications go into a lottery, as the number of licenses is limited as dictated by laws passed during the last couple of legislative sessions.

Briner says the Legislature’s good work and participation from advocates in the lawmaking process will help stave off legal challenges as seen in other states, in addition to buyouts by large entities of social equity business owners who lacked capital to sustain their companies.

“We’re unique [in] some of the protections that were added in the legislative session this year to really protect that kind of craft industry model and make sure that businesses are prepared to succeed in what’s a very volatile market,” Briner said. “We feel confident that we’re in as good a position as we can in be to continue to launch.”

The timeline of when licenses turn into businesses is still hazy, and depends largely on the number of applicants, according to Briner. The office will know more on Aug. 12 when the licensing window closes, she believes.