Recreational Legalization of Marijuana in Minnesota and What It Means for Prior Convictions

The Minnesota House passed a recreational use of marijuana bill for those ages 21 and older. Because the Democrats have a slim majority in the Senate, the Minnesota Senate is also likely to pass it with some possible amendments.

The major takeaway from the bill is the ability to possess and recreationally use marijuana if a person is 21 years or older. The bill as it currently stands will allow the possession of two ounces of marijuana flower in public places and up to five pounds of marijuana flower in a private dwelling or residence. The bill also allows the growth of up to eight plants with four being mature if the plants are in a locked room and only can be accessed by those 21 years or older. The bill also establishes the licensing and regulations for the sale of marijuana by retail stores, by local municipalities through dispensaries, or by other individuals seeking licenses to grow, sell, or transport marijuana.

The bill discusses the taxing of marijuana too. The current draft of the bill states at the point of sale of the cannabis product will be taxed at an eight percent rate. The funding will go to multiple areas; however, the bill specifically highlights two areas. The first is funding going toward substance misuse treatment programs in Minnesota. The second is funding going to provide grants to support farmers of cannabis.

This bill has future implications for possession charges of marijuana which would eliminate criminal penalties. The current criminal penalties for possession of marijuana range anywhere from a felony up to 30 years to a petty misdemeanor with no jail time depending on the amount a person is possessing. The bill intends to not only decriminalize possession but eliminate it with the passing of recreational use in Minnesota. It is unclear if there will be criminal penalties for not following the restrictions the bill places on marijuana possession, marijuana sales, and marijuana transportation.

The bill not only affects the future of recreational use it also benefits those with prior convictions related to cannabis. The bill pending would automatically expunge convictions for those with low-level offenses for marijuana. This process would be conducted by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension which would be responsible for finding those who are eligible for this relief. Normally, expungement does not occur automatically as the individual with the conviction needs to petition for expungement. This is a major concern with the passing of legalization in other states where there have been prior convictions for cannabis. This bill addresses this concern of many with legalization and what will happen with prior convictions because most people believe it is important to expunge those convictions since possession and use are now being allowed.

If this bill passes, it will provide benefits both for those who want to use and sell marijuana not having to worry about facing jail or prison time, and those who have been affected by prior convictions getting them removed from their record.

Robert H. Ambrose is a criminal defense attorney and DWI attorney in Minnesota. Minnesota. Super Lawyers named him Super Lawyer the past two years and a Rising Star the six years prior. He has been an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School for the past six years. Drug Crimes Lawyer Woodbury MN; Criminal Defense Attorney St. Paul MN; and Drug Crimes Lawyer Minnesota.