On Tuesday, bill HF 100 was in the hands of a committee chaired by Rep. Ginny Klevorn. After a two-hour hearing, the bill passed the House State and Local Government Finance and Policy Committee.
At nearly 300 pages long, it comes as no surprise lawmakers continue to stall HF 100. Ultimately, the bill would allow Minnesotans ages 21 and over to purchase a limited amount of cannabis products (two ounces of flower and eight grams of concentrates). Furthermore, the bill discusses an 8% special tax on all products (which would be on top of regular sales taxes).
Naturally, many Minnesota residents are eagerly watching this bill. As Rep. Zack Stephenson, noted: “Minnesotans are ready for this change. Our current laws are doing more harm than good.”
As the chief author of the bill, Stephenson’s main objective is to eliminate the illicit cannabis market currently plaguing the state (and much of the country, for that matter).
This isn’t the first time legal cannabis has been discussed within Minnesota. In a previous initiative, a vote was held on a similar bill that would allow cities and municipalities to decide whether or not they want legal cannabis sales in their area. This amendment was lost by a 7 to 5 vote.
However, Rep. Stephenson said such initiatives aren’t always a good idea. In his words: “Looking at the experience of other states, in states that have allowed an opt-out… whole communities, whole counties to opt out of legal cannabis, it creates an avenue for the illicit market to continue and be successful.”
Concerns Over Cannabis Legalization in Minnesota
One of the number one reasons HF 100 has stalled is due to the lack of wording concerning the limitations cannabis locations would have. For example, there’s no discussion on how far they have to be from a school zone or how many cannabis shops would be allowed in one region.
Gillian Rosequist, a Golden Valley City Council member, argued that such decisions should be made by the cities and municipalities themselves.
“The state should allow local governments to reasonably limit the number of retailers within our jurisdiction,” she testified, on behalf of the League of Minnesota Cities. “Under the current bill, there’s no safeguard to prevent the board from issuing far more licenses than reasonable for a given city.”
Within this argument, she also discussed Golden Valley’s regulation of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) products.
A number of other concerns were also presented to the committee, such as police officers’ concerns over traffic safety. According to Jay Henthorne, Richfield Police Chief, “This will lead to more work for local law enforcement.”
Still, even while these arguments certainly held some weight concerning how Minnesota should go about legalization, the bill still managed to pass. This is the fifth House committee stop it’s passed through, with another nine to go.
During those future stops, more arguments will continue to be made on the specifics of HR 100. However, the biggest concern comes in the fact that if passed by the following 9 House committees, it will then need to pass through the Republican-held Senate.
Mark Johnson, Senate Minority Leader (R-East Grand Forks) has admittedly not discussed opposition to the bill. Still, he did have the following to say:
“Concerns about the full legalization of marijuana should not be rushed. We need to hear from law enforcement, employers, addiction counselors, educators, and others who have concerns about legalizing marijuana. We know that even small changes in this area of law can lead to huge changes in the market and in people’s practices. We don’t take the risks that marijuana poses to youth, minorities, and the vulnerable, lightly. The Senate DFL will need to decide if they want to rush this process to keep their political partners happy or to take their time to decide if full-blown legalization is the right thing for Minnesota.”