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Environmental standards in recreational marijuana bill highlighted in committee hearing

Minnesota's marijuana growers, distributors and sellers would need to meet environmental standards under the bill to legalize recreational cannabis, members of the House Environment and Natural Resource Finance and Policy Committee learned Monday.

HF600, sponsored by House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley), would require the proposed Cannabis Management Board to create odor, water, energy and solid waste standards for cannabis businesses.

The standards would need to include:

  • limitations on odors produced by cannabis businesses;
  • regulations on the use of automated water systems and limits on the acceptable runoff of water;
  • rules for the disposal of cannabis products, packaging, recycling and other solid waste;
  • requirements on the reuse of wastewater and filtration systems for removing contaminants from wastewater; and
  • solar and wind energy-use requirements for cannabis cultivators and manufacturers.

Cultivators and manufacturers could offset the use of other energy sources through the purchase of approved credits.

On Monday, the bill was approved by the environment committee, as amended, on an 11-7 party-line vote and referred to the House Judiciary Finance and Civil Law Committee.

Its companion, SF757, is sponsored by Sen. Melissa Franzen (DFL-Edina) and awaits action by the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Finance and Policy Committee.

Winkler, who frames the bill as a way to address the disproportionate impact marijuana laws have on communities of color, said lawmakers have a chance to shape a nascent industry to their liking.

"We essentially are trying to create an industry that will do no harm as a result of a product whose prohibition has done great harm," he said.

Rep. Rick Hansen (DFL-South St. Paul) said he appreciates the measures that would prevent marijuana regulators from being beholden to the industry.

Lobbyists would not be allowed to serve on the proposed 26-member Cannabis Advisory Council that would review and make recommendations on cannabis policy.

Republicans want more information on which facilities would need air and water permits, how the Pollution Control Agency would regulate fertilizer usage and how much water facilities would use.

Asked how the bill would enhance environmental justice, Winkler said it aims to create smaller marijuana businesses that do not need a lot of capital. That could benefit communities of color, he said, because of racial disparities in access to capital funds.

He also said there are social-equity licenses, grants and navigation funds for communities affected by the war on drugs that will help them participate in the industry.

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