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Conference committee on recreational cannabis bill makes progress as chairs pledge to finish on time

With the session potentially entering its final week, the sponsors of a high-profile bill remain steadfast that agreement will be reached.

“We will work expeditiously to close additional articles in this committee in the coming days,” Rep. Zack Stephenson (DFL-Coon Rapids) said at Friday’s first gathering of the cannabis conference committee. “It is my expectation, intention, desire that this bill will be on the governor’s desk before the end of this legislative session, and I expect to deliver on that promise.

“Minnesotans want this to happen, and I think that we’ll have at least enough votes to pass it and probably more than that.”

“We’re getting the votes by passing a bill that Minnesotans want and need, not by cutting deals and filling it with pork,” said Sen. Lindsey Port (DFL-Burnsville), who co-chairs the conference committee with Stephenson.

Conferees for HF100 adopted four articles, three by approving motions as outlined in a summary of decisions document and one by approving an amendment offered by Port that would specify how the low-dose, hemp-derived edibles legalized last year would be regulated before the new Office of Cannabis Management becomes fully operational.

Port said the provisions were developed to allay concerns of hemp growers worried the strict license requirements for cannabis growers and retailers would extend to them and make it difficult to stay in business.

The other three adopted articles would set up the infrastructure needed to build a local cannabis industry in the state, clarify tribal compacts, and provide for education programs aimed at youth. Other provisions adopted include those specifying reporting requirements and setting employment regulations, including rules on workplace testing.

Five articles have yet to be agreed to including how much sales tax to impose on the retail sale of cannabis. The Senate wants 10% and the House wants 8%.

Also set aside for later considerations are differences in limits to the amount of cannabis a person is legally allowed to possess for personal consumption, the degree that local governments can regulate cannabis retail establishments, and the process of expunging criminal records of people previously convicted of low-level cannabis offenses.

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