City leaders highlight approach to new cannabis law

August 1, 2023

Today, Minnesota becomes the 23rd state to legalize recreational cannabis. To mark the occasion, Mayor Jacob Frey has proclaimed today Cannabis Legalization Day in the City of Minneapolis. Since the start of his political career, Mayor Frey has been a strong advocate and supporter of cannabis legalization and decriminalization.

When the State of Minnesota legislation passed in May, the mayor immediately set up a multi-departmental work group with City leaders and staff from the Office of Public Service – including Community Planning and Economic Development, Health, Intergovernmental Relations, Race Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, and the Arts and Cultural Affairs Department – the City Attorney’s Office, and the Mayor’s Office. This staff workgroup has been meeting regularly to facilitate the City’s approach to cannabis legalization, looking to have regulations in place by January 2025 – a timeline the State has targeted for commercial sale and their new Office of Cannabis Management to be fully operational.

At the mayor’s direction, the City will have a “permissive” approach to the retail environment, meaning the City will welcome and support a wide array of local small business and retail owners to foster business within city limits and will avoid unnecessary criminalization or restrictions.

“I’ve always said we need to have a system in place where recreational cannabis use is thoughtful, responsible, regulated, and legalized – and that’s where we're now headed,” said Mayor Frey. “Today is a day to celebrate both legalization and decriminalization, and I’m grateful to our Minnesota legislators and advocates who made this happen. Now the work begins at the city level, and I look forward to seeing the first Minneapolis dispensaries come online as soon as early 2025.” 

Per the legislation, the City has two legal mandates from this new law: 

  1. To issue retail registrations to state-licensed cannabis businesses, and  
  2. To conduct compliance checks, including annual age verification checks.

The City staff workgroup has already begun looking into regulations, rules, and requirements for these two mandates. Written into the legislation, cities can additionally choose to pursue time, place and manner, zoning/spacing, and public consumption requirements including establishing a petty misdemeanor ordinance violation for outdoor public consumption in certain, defined areas. The workgroup is evaluating these different options and will bring forward recommendations next year.

Another important component of this new legislation is cannabis retail. The new State Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) will regulate cannabis for the adult-use market, the Medical Cannabis Program, and for lower-potency hemp edibles. The OCM will also issue licenses and develop regulations outlining how and when businesses can participate in the industry. OCM will write rules and start application and licensing processes – these rules and processes must be put in place prior to the City’s role with the two legal mandates listed above.

One of Mayor Frey’s 2023-2024 priorities is to ensure Minneapolis resident’s most harmed by the war on drugs are prioritized in their ability to participate in the legal marketplace. A big piece of the City’s implementation of this new legislation will be centered on social equity and criminal justice, especially for our Black and Brown communities. Soon, minor cannabis convictions, like possession of small amounts, will begin to be automatically expunged, ultimately benefiting tens of thousands of Minnesotans. This legislation will additionally create a State Cannabis Expungement Board will be created to review felonies for expungement or resentencing.

Since the start of his political career, beginning in his time as the Ward 3 City Council Member, Mayor Frey has supported cannabis legalization and decriminalization. In 2014, as a council member, he recommended legislation calling for the legalization of medical cannabis; in 2016, he authored a City Council resolution decriminalizing cannabis under City ordinance; and in 2018, as mayor, he directed the Minneapolis Police Department to stop conducting sting operations targeting low-level cannabis sales in an effort to curb racial profiling and racial disparities.