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Commerce panel amends recreational marijuana bill to reduce personal possession limit

Since its introduction in January, the proposal to legalize adult-use recreational marijuana has been to more than a dozen committees, garnering a lot of debate and collecting several amendments along the way.

On Monday, HF100 returned whence it started, the House Commerce Finance and Policy Committee, where its sponsor, Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids), successfully amended the bill to reduce the amount of cannabis a person may legally possess from 5 pounds to 1.5 pounds.

The committee approved the bill, as amended, and sent it to the House Taxes Committee.

Stephenson said the reduction is a commonsense measure reflecting the limits many other states with legal recreational marijuana have in place for personal possession.

Another portion of Stephenson’s amendment would create a separate, and less strict, regulatory and licensing process for hemp growers producing low-dose (up to 5 milligrams) cannabis products, which were legalized last session.

Stephenson said he made this change because of hemp growers’ concerns that imposing strict cannabis regulations on them were unnecessary and would kill their businesses.

[MORE: Session Daily story on bill as introduced in January]

Three additional amendments were offered during the hearing; one was adopted.

That came from Rep. Brad Tabke (DFL-Shakopee) to grant a yet-to-be-determined amount of money to the University of Minnesota to do research on cannabis genetics and agronomy. It would also fund cannabis education through the University of Minnesota Extension.

Stephenson said the exact appropriation would be determined after a fiscal note is completed.

Two Republican-sponsored amendments were not successful. One, offered by Rep. Bernie Perryman (R-St. Augusta), would have increased the amount spent to train state patrol “drug recognition experts” to detect drivers with cannabis intoxication; the second, offered by Rep. Tim O'Driscoll (R-Sartell), would have limited the percent of THC permissible in cannabis products.

As of now, the bill would permit a person age 21 or older to:

  • possess up to 2 ounces of cannabis flower in a public place or 1.5 pounds in a person’s residence;
  • possess or transport no more than 8 grams of adult-use cannabis concentrate;
  • possess or transport edible products infused with up to 800 milligrams of THC;
  • give away cannabis flower and cannabinoid products in an amount that is legal for a person to possess in public;
  • use cannabis flower and cannabinoid products in private areas; and
  • cultivate up to eight cannabis plants, of which four or fewer may be mature, flowering plants.

The bill would make significant changes in many parts of Minnesota law by:

  • creating more than a dozen types of licenses for growing, selling, transporting and testing cannabis;
  • creating an Office of Cannabis Management to regulate cannabis and take enforcement actions;
  • taxing cannabis retail sales at 8%, in addition to any already imposed local or state taxes;
  • creating and funding programs to combat cannabis abuse;
  • creating grants to assist individuals entering the legal cannabis market;
  • eliminating criminal penalties for cannabis possession; and
  • expunging the criminal records of people previously convicted of low-level cannabis offenses.

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