The Potluck

House, Senate settle on a marijuana possession limit

By: - May 15, 2023 2:16 pm

(Photo by Luke Dray/Getty Images)

Negotiators moved closer Monday to finalizing a bill legalizing marijuana, with agreements resolving most of the major conflicts between the House and Senate bills. The only outstanding items remaining are taxes and appropriations, which Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, said would be addressed in a meeting on Tuesday, setting up final floor votes for later this week.

The compromise language sets marijuana flower possession limits of 2 ounces in public and up to 2 pounds in a person’s home. It also allows localities to cap the number of marijuana retailers at one for every 12,500 residents. 

In addition, the new language allows large medical marijuana companies to produce and sell recreational marijuana.

The changes to possession limits, as well as changes to the penalty structure for selling marijuana illegally, would take effect this summer. Committee members voted down an amendment offered by Republican Sen. Jordan Rasmusson, R-Fergus Falls, that would have delayed these changes until the first licensed retailers open in 2024.

“Prohibition is a failed system that has not achieved any of the desired outcomes,” said Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, in urging members to reject the amendment. “This just means another year of criminalizing, particularly communities of color. It hasn’t worked in the past, it’s not going to magically start working this year.”

Some legalization supporters have expressed concern that the home possession limit of 2 pounds, which is considerably greater than the limit in most other states, is not high enough. The Minnesota Hemp Growers Cooperative noted in a letter to the committee that the legislation allows individuals to have up to four mature cannabis plants at one time, with a yield potentially greater than the individual possession limit of 2 pounds.

“With proper cultivating techniques, you could harvest well over 6 pounds of material from four plants,” wrote Shawn Weber, president of the cooperative. “On what planet does this make any sense?”

Similar on-the-books discrepancies exist in most other states that allow home cultivation, however. Law enforcement agencies have been primarily focused on preventing people moving large quantities of marijuana across state borders, with little to no enforcement against individuals legally growing marijuana for personal use.

The tax rate on retail sales remains a major point of disagreement. The Senate bill opts for a straightforward 10% tax on cannabis sales, while the House version sets the tax at 8% to start and then lets policymakers adjust the rate periodically. In both bills, these taxes are levied in addition to the standard state sales tax.

Once the legalization bill comes out of the conference committee, it will receive an up or down vote in both the House and Senate, likely before the Legislature recesses on May 23; Gov. Tim Walz is expected to sign it. Minnesota would become the 23rd state to legalize recreational marijuana. 

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Christopher Ingraham
Christopher Ingraham

Christopher Ingraham covers greater Minnesota and reports on data-driven stories across the state. He's the author of the book "If You Lived Here You'd Be Home By Now," about his family's journey from the Baltimore suburbs to rural northwest Minnesota. He was previously a data reporter for the Washington Post.