Yo, check it out, Minnesota is making moves when it comes to the cannabis game. The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) is on the rise, and Charlene Briner, the head honcho, spilled the beans in an interview with Star Tribune. Briner said, “I’m holdin’ it down for a hot minute, at least until early 2024. The governor’s thinkin’ about what’s next.” She’s got a contract with the state until February 15, 2024, but she’s hopin’ to bring in nine key players for OCM before the end of 2023 or early January 2024.
Briner also dropped some knowledge about how the Minnesota Department of Health hired a crew of inspectors to keep an eye on businesses and products that come from hemp. The Department of Agriculture is helpin’ out too, assistin’ with compliance enforcement. And get this, they’ve reassigned a bunch of government employees to lend a hand with compliance as well. They’re expectin’ to have a total of 120 employees workin’ on cannabis management. Briner said, “There’s a whole lot of behind-the-scenes action happenin’ to make sure we’re ready to launch in 2025.”
Briner finished up by sayin’ that the deadline is still on track and they might start acceptin’ applications for cannabis business licenses sometime in late 2024. She said, “We know this timeline is ambitious, but we’re committed to makin’ it happen. We got our work cut out for us.”
Now let’s talk about the drama that went down with the previous OCM director, Erin DuPree. She got announced for the gig on September 21, 2023. But just one day later, all hell broke loose. Allegations started flyin’ around that she owned a hemp cannabis company called Loonacy Cannabis Co., which she started back in July 2022. But get this, they said she was sellin’ illegal or unregulated hemp products. DuPree was like, “Nah, I ain’t goin’ through with this.” She dropped out real quick.
Governor Tim Walz was all about DuPree at first, callin’ her a star candidate. He said, “She’s been killin’ it in the business, doin’ research on hemp and cannabis products while followin’ all the state laws. With her experience in Minnesota’s cannabis industry and years of success in launchin’ and growin’ businesses, Erin DuPree was the perfect fit for OCM.” But now it looks like he gotta find someone else.
Minnesota made history on May 2, 2023, when they became the 23rd state to legalize recreational cannabis. Walz signed that bill and gave a speech about it. He talked about how the War on Drugs was a total fail and how it was time for a change. He said, “Prohibiting cannabis ain’t doin’ us no good. By legalizin’ it, we’re boostin’ our economy, creatin’ jobs, and makin’ sure everything is safe for Minnesotans. It’s gonna make our communities stronger. This is what Minnesota needs.”
The law says residents can have up to 32 ounces of weed at home (that’s like 2 pounds!), and they can grow up to four plants. When they’re out in public, they can have up to two ounces on ’em. Other states like California, Washington, and Nevada only let you have one ounce at home. Colorado’s even stricter with just one ounce at home too. NORML Political Director Morgan Fox said, “Most states that let you grow your own weed don’t have a limit. They say you can keep whatever you grow. Only four states, including Minnesota, have set limits. Massachusetts lets you have 10 ounces, Michigan too. Oregon’s got eight ounces, and New York wins with 5 pounds.”
Vicente LLP did some analysis and they think Minnesota’s cannabis industry could be worth a whopping $1.5 billion by 2029. They’re expectin’ around 650,000 people in the state to be buyin’ weed for both recreational and medical use every year.
While it’s gonna take some time to get everything up and runnin’ in Minnesota, the Native American Red Lake Nation Tribe wasted no time. They opened up shop on August 1 and became the first dispensary in the state. Sam Strong, Red Lake Nation’s tribal secretary, said, “This is gonna help our people recover. We see it as a resource to reduce harm and bring in some much-needed support.” The tribe’s gonna sell medical cannabis too.
And get this, the University of Minnesota just launched its Cannabis Research Center thanks to that same legalization bill. UM professor Traci Toomey said, “I’m stoked to lead the Cannabis Research Center and work with my colleagues to study how adult-use cannabis legalization affects people and communities across Minnesota. We wanna look at substance use disorders, equity issues, education, and decriminalization. Our research is gonna give policymakers the info they need to make smart decisions about cannabis laws.”
Minnesota is definitely on its way to becoming a cannabis powerhouse. So keep your eyes on this state, ’cause big things are comin’.