The Minnesota House of Representatives is planning a Thursday vote on a bill (HF 600) that would legalize adult-use cannabis in the state. The measure is expected to be passed by the House’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL) majority in what will be the first cannabis legalization vote by the full legislative body in its history.

Under HF 600, adults 21 and older would be permitted to buy and use up to 1.5 ounces of marijuana for recreational purposes. Adults would also be allowed to cultivate up to four mature and four immature cannabis plants at home. The measure would establish a regulatory framework for the operation and taxation of licensed cannabis businesses. Cannabis taxes raised would be dedicated to youth access prevention and substance abuse treatment programs.

Under current Minnesota law, possession of even small amounts of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor criminal offense, although cases involving less than 42.5 grams of cannabis are punishable by a fine of not more than $200 instead of time in jail.

Additionally, the state has a strictly limited medicinal cannabis program. Patients with one or more of 18 serious medical conditions are eligible for the program with a doctor’s recommendation. Smoking of cannabis flower is not permitted under the state’s medical marijuana program. 

Social Equity Provisions Included In Bill Minnesota House Of Representatives Will Vote On

The bill up for a vote in the Minnesota House Of Representatives on Thursday has social equity provisions to address the disparate harm caused in some communities by the failed War on Drugs. Black people in Minnesota are more than five times as likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people despite comparable rates of use, according to a report released by the American Civil Liberties Union last year.

Under HF 600, which is supported by DFL Majority Leader Ryan Winkler and many of his Democratic colleagues, past convictions for many cannabis offenses would be automatically expunged. The measure would also provide grants and aid so that members of communities most harmed by prohibition will be able to participate in the state’s newly legal cannabis industry.

“It puts forth the best step forward on racial equity of any program in the country,” said Winkler, who is helping to guide the legislation through the House. “What I find encouraging is that most people recognize the need to change the system and the need to change the inequities in the criminal justice system, even if they don’t support full legalization.”

Individuals with misdemeanor marijuana convictions eligible for expungement would be identified by the state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and orders of expungement would be issued by the courts. A newly formed Cannabis Expungement Board would review more serious cases for factors including the amount of cannabis and whether violence was involved to decide if expungement or resentencing is warranted.

Kente Shivers, a Minnesotan who spent 30 months in prison for a felony marijuana conviction, told local media that expungement would change his future. With a criminal record, he has found it difficult to find housing and employment since being released from prison last year.

“This could help a person like me get my life back in order,” Shivers said. “I want to be able to work in the cannabis industry and not have it be something that hinders me.”

To get the bill to a House floor vote, which is expected Thursday afternoon, Winkler has navigated it through a dozen legislative committees in recent weeks, gaining some Republican support along the way.

But despite the likely success of the bill in the Minnesota House of Representatives and support from Democratic Gov. Walz, the measure is not likely to gain the approval of the state Senate’s Republican majority. Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka has said he does not consider legalizing recreational marijuana “a Minnesota priority.”