By Keegan Williams

After a years-long push from advocates and lengthy legislative debates, Minnesota officially became the 23rd state in the U.S. to legalize recreational cannabis in August of last year.

The North Star State now finds itself in a gray area of sorts, having legalized possession, cultivation, and use of cannabis while awaiting the launch of legal adult-use sales. Minnesota joined Delaware and Ohio in passing legislation to legalize cannabis in 2023, and now more than half of the U.S. population lives in places where cannabis is recreationally legal.

Minnesota’s recent move is just one recent indication of the collective progress we’ve seen surrounding cannabis reform. But what exactly are Minnesotans allowed to do when it comes to cannabis today, and what can they expect in regard to the pending market launch?

Minnesota State Law 

Governor Tim Walz signed a cannabis bill on May 30, 2023, which decriminalized cannabis effective August 1, 2023, and allowed for the possession, use and home growing of cannabis in the state for adults over the age of 21. The law states that those over 21 can use, possess, or transport cannabis paraphernalia, including up to 2 ounces of cannabis flower in a public place or public resident, up to 8 grams of recreational concentrate products, and edibles with a combined 800 mg or less of THC. It’s also acceptable to give a legal amount of cannabis products to another person over 21.

Residents over 21 can cultivate up to eight cannabis plants, with no more than four mature flowering plants being grown at a single residence. Plants must also be in an enclosed, locked space out of public view. Cannabis use is allowed for those over 21 on private property, in private residences, and in places with approved licenses or event permits (though currently no licenses and permits are available in Minnesota).

Looking Ahead to Sales Launch

With its move to legalize cannabis, Minnesota finds itself in an interesting transitional period before launching full-scale adult-use retail sales. According to Minnesota’s Office of Cannabis Management, sales are expected to launch in the first quarter of 2025 to give lawmakers time to draft regulations and issue licenses to cannabis businesses. However, it could take longer depending on the time it takes to draft regulations and issue licenses.

According to data compiled by KMSP-TV, the average time in 20 other states that have already legalized and launched their retail sales markets was 17 months from vote to legalize to the first retail sales with a median time of 14 months. Minnesota is expected to need at least 22 months to begin retail sales. 

“We are working very quickly, and we’re trying to do it thoughtfully, while also mitigating the risks that we have,” interim director of the Office of Cannabis Management Charlene Briner told the Associated Press. “We are intensely aware that the gap between full legalization and a regulated market is important to minimize, and we are working as quickly as we can to make that happen.”

Tribal Nations and Cannabis

It is worth noting that there are currently a number of shops that are legally allowed to sell recreational cannabis in Minnesota — specifically those tribally owned, on-reservation shops. This is because tribal sovereignty exempts tribes from state regulation, allowing the 11 federally recognized tribal governments in the state to determine how they want to oversee and regulate cannabis businesses on their land.

The Red Lake and White Earth Nation tribes opened adult-use dispensaries on tribal land in 2023, while the Prairie Island Indian Community plans to open a cannabis dispensary this summer in Goodhue County. The Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe is also constructing a large cannabis growing facility near Grand Casino Mille Lacs in Onami to supply other tribal dispensaries and state-licensed shops with cannabis once it’s up and running.