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Under Advocates’ Pressure, Minnesota Lawmakers Discuss Proposal to Permit Early Marijuana Cultivation

Marijuana (Credits: Scientific American)

The pressure is mounting on Minnesota legislators and regulators to expedite the licensing of marijuana growers ahead of dispensaries in preparation for the launch of the recreational marijuana market next year.

Currently, the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) cannot issue cultivation licenses until it has finalized rules for the recreational industry, a process expected to conclude in early 2025.

To address the urgency of the situation, state senators have proposed allowing certain individuals to start growing marijuana this year under the state’s existing medical cannabis cultivation rules.

Marijuana Leaves (Credits: Virginia Mercury)

Specifically, only social equity applicants who have been preapproved for a cannabis business license and have obtained local zoning approval would be permitted to begin growing early. Social equity applicants are defined as those who have been directly or indirectly harmed by previous criminal enforcement of marijuana laws.

The proposal aims to enable the quick implementation of cultivation rules, potentially allowing cultivation licenses to become operational sooner.

However, the use of the medical cannabis rules for early cultivation would be optional for the OCM, not mandatory. The OCM will evaluate whether this option is necessary while ensuring a commitment to equity and an effective market launch.

Advocates in Minnesota’s cannabis community have emphasized the importance of starting cultivation ahead of retail sales to avoid potential delays or chaos in the market rollout.

Marijuana Plant (Credits: Vox)

They warn that without an early start to cultivation, Minnesota may not have a cannabis supply chain until at least 2026, delaying anticipated tax revenue from the cannabis market.

While the proposal has received support, some advocates believe it is too narrowly defined to only include social equity applicants. They argue that any well-prepared business should be eligible to start growing this year, and the bill should establish a specific timeline for cultivation to begin.

The proposal has been added to a broader cannabis policy bill by the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee and is moving forward for a floor vote. However, there is still room for adjustments to address stakeholder concerns and ensure a smooth rollout of the recreational marijuana market in Minnesota.

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