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Last reviewed August 2020

Minnesota Issues Resource Guides
Cannabis

This guide is compiled by staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library on a topic of interest to state legislators. It introduces the topic and points to sources for further research. It is not intended to be exhaustive.

Medical Cannabis  Cannabidoil (CBD) and Hemp  Recreational Marijuana

In Marijuana: A Short History, John Hudak writes that humans have used the cannabis plant for thousands of years - more than 5,000 according to some historians - and for a myriad of purposes. The genus Cannabis includes three principal species: Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis.  Cannabis plants contain many cannabinoids, chemical compounds that can be psychoactive or nonpsychoactive. The most well-know cannabinoids are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), known for its psychoactive effects, and cannabidiol (CBD). Some strains of cannabis are higher in THC and other cannabinoids than others and portions of these plants are harvested to produce the psychoactive drug commonly referred to as marijuana. Hemp is derived from cannabis plants that are low in THC. These plants are used to make hemp-based products -- everything from ropes to ship sails to non-psychoactive protein-rich food products.

Marijuana was largely unregulated in the United States until Congress passed The Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 (P.L. 75-238), which unofficially banned marijuana by imposing strict regulations for every sale. Soon after this act passed, all states made marijuana possession illegal (e.g. Laws of Minnesota 1939, chap. 405). When the Controlled Substance Act passed the U.S. Congress in 1970 (P.L. 91-513), marijuana was classified as a Schedule I drug, the most restrictive of the five schedules, and that classification remains today. Since then, annual attempts have been made at the federal level to down-schedule marijuana or deschedule it altogether.

Meanwhile, states have begun to approve cannabis for medical use, starting with California in 1996, and recreational use, starting with Colorado and Washington State in 2012. Many states, including Minnesota, have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Regulations around cannabis' use and sale continue to evolve. This guide provides an overview of cannabis-related laws and regulations in Minnesota in three broad categories: medical cannabis, cannabidiol (CBD) and hemp, and recreational marijuana.

Note: Throughout this guide, the terms "cannabis" and "marijuana" are both used. For some perspective on the history of and usage of these two terms, see Marijuana: A Short History, pages 23-27, by John Hudak (HV5822.M3 H832 2016).

Medical Cannabis

Minnesota legalized medical cannabis in 2014, becoming the 22nd state to grant some level of access to the drug for medicinal purposes (Laws of Minnesota 2014, chap. 311 (SF2470)). Unlike some states with medical cannabis laws, Minnesota does not allow patients with a prescription to smoke marijuana leaves. Instead, only the use of pills, oils, or vaporizing of a cannabis compound through a device similar to an e-cigarette is allowed (see Minn. Stat. 152.22, subd. 6). The law created the Task Force on Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research to conduct assessments to evaluate the impact of the use of medical cannabis and evaluate Minnesota's and other states' activities involving medical cannabis.

The Minnesota Department of Health established the Office of Medical Cannabis after the passage of the medical cannabis bill and the office was tasked with implementing the law. The office began soliciting bids for medical cannabis manufacturers in early fall of 2014.

The 2014 law spelled out qualifying conditions for participation in the medical cannabis program, directed the Medical Cannabis Intractable Pain Advisory Panel to determine whether "intractable pain" should be added as an additional qualifying condition, and provided that in the future other qualifying conditions could be added if approved by the commissioner of health. In 2016, "intractable pain" was added to the list of qualifying conditions for participation in Minnesota's Medical Cannabis Program based on recommendations from the panel. 

Starting in 2016, the Medical Cannabis Review Panel now hears all petitions for, and takes public comments on, any proposed additions to the current list of qualifying medical conditions. The department accepts petitions annually from June 1 to July 31. The panel presents its findings and recommendations to the commissioner of health by November 1 each year. The commissioner must then either approve or reject a condition addition by December 1. As new conditions are added to the list of qualifying medical conditions, they are posted on the Office of Medical Cannabis' website.

Minnesota residents participating in the medical cannabis program are required to join a patient registry in order to obtain and use medical cannabis for treatment purposes.

Books and Reports

A Review of Medical Cannabis Studies Relating to Chemical Compositions and Dosages for Qualifying Medical Conditions. Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Medical Cannabis, 2014-present [annual]. (RM666.C266 R47)

City Employment Issues and Medical Cannabis in Minnesota. League of Minnesota Cities, 2016. (RM666.C266 C58 2016)

Early Results of Office of Medical Cannabis Surveys. Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Medical Cannabis, 2016. (RM666.C266 E27 2016)

Grinspoon, Lester. Marihuana, the Forbidden Medicine. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997. (RM666.C266 G75 1997)

Intractable Pain Patients in the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program: Experience of Enrollees During the First Five Months. Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Medical Cannabis, 2018. (RM666.C266 I58 2018)

Medical Cannabis: A Guide to the Minnesota Law and Legal Issues. Minnesota House Research Department, 2014. (RM666.C266 M43)

Medical Cannabis and Intractable Pain. Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Medical Cannabis, 2015. (RM666.C266 M567 2015)

Medical Cannabis for Non-Cancer Pain: A Systematic Review. Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Medical Cannabis, [2016]. (RM666.C266 M568 2016)

Medical Cannabis Program Update. Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Medical Cannabis, 2016-present [quarterly]. (RM666.C266 M435)

Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Use Program Impact Assessment Report. Task Force on Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research, 2017. (RM666.C266 M562)

Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program: Patient Experiences from the First Program Year. Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Medical Cannabis, 2017. (RM666.C266 M565 2017)

Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research Act. Minnesota House of Representatives Research Department, 2018. (RM666.C266 M56)

National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. The Health Effects of Cannabis and Cannabinoids: The Current State of Evidence and Recommendations for Research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2017. (QP801.C27 N38 2017)

Notice of Addition of Alzheimer’s Disease as a Qualifying Condition for Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis Program. Minnesota Department of Health, 2019. (RM666.C266 M35 2019)

Notice of Addition of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) as a Qualifying Condition for Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis Program. Minnesota Department of Health, 2017. (RM666.C266 E352 2017)

Notice to Task Force on Medical Cannabis Therapeutic Research. Minnesota Department of Health, 2015. (RM666.C266 E35 2015)

Panel Recommendations on Adding Intractable Pain as a Qualifying Condition for the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program. Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Medical Cannabis, 2015. (RM666.C266 M566 2015)

Petitions to Add Qualifying Medical Conditions to the Medical Cannabis Program. Minnesota Department of Health, Office of Medical Cannabis, 2016-present [annual]. (RM666.C266 P48)

Articles

(articles in reverse chronological order)

Olson, Jeremy. "Minnesota OKs Cannabis for Chronic Pain, Eye Condition." Star Tribune, December 2, 2019.

Hubbard, Rob. “Why do Medical Cannabis Companies Pay the Highest Corporate Taxes in Minnesota?Faribault Daily News, May 20, 2019.

Ehlinger, Ed. “Legalized Marijuana in Minnesota? For Medical Use, Yes; for Open Adult Use, Not Yet. The State's Program Shows the Benefits of Medical Cannabis. But Much More Study is Needed Into Impacts of General Use of the Drug [opinion].” Star Tribune, February 27, 2019.

Olson, Jeremy. “Alzheimer's Added to Minnesota's Medical Marijuana List. State Adding Disease to List Eligible for Treatment with Cannabis, Despite Some Reservations.” Star Tribune, December 3, 2018.

Haffajee, Rebecca, et al. "Behind Schedule: Reconciling Federal and State Marijuana Policy." The New England Journal of Medicine, August 9, 2018. [includes timeline chronicling marijuana-related legislative, judicial, and executive action, 1970-present]

Stassen-Berger, Rachel. “Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program to Include PTSD Sufferers.” St. Paul Pioneer Press, July 5, 2017.

Zamora, Karen and Jennifer Brooks. “Minnesota's Medical Cannabis Providers Have Lost $11M in Two Years.” Star Tribune, May 15, 2017.

Feshir, Riham. “Success, Concerns Mark First Year of Minnesota Medical Cannabis.” Minnesota Public Radio, July 1, 2016.

Lundy, John. “'Life-changing': Medical Cannabis has Brought Positive Results for Hibbing Girl with Severe Epilepsy.” Duluth News Tribune, June 12, 2016.

Gogek, Ed. “Why Doctors are Not in Favor of Medical Cannabis [opinion].” Star Tribune, June 7, 2015.

Brooks, Jennifer. “Minnesota Approves Labs to Test State's Medical Marijuana: The Goal is to Ensure that the State's Medical Cannabis Supply is Safe.” Star Tribune, April 29, 2015.

Brooks, Jennifer. “1,000 Minnesota Patients Interested in Medical Marijuana: State Survey Offers First Look at Cannabis Program.” Star Tribune, February 23, 2015.

Williams, Sarah T. “Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis Law: Variations on a National Theme.” MinnPost, May 21, 2014.

Internet Resources

Office of Medical Cannabis -- Minnesota Department of Health

Medical Cannabis Manufacturers/Laboratories -- Minnesota Department of Health

"Medical Cannabis" in 2019 Minnesota Statutes Index

"Medical Cannabis" in Minnesota Rules Index

Cannabidiol (CBD) and Hemp

Cannabidiol, known commonly as CBD, is a type of cannabinoid, a chemical compound found in cannabis. Though CBD can be extracted from both marijuana and industrial hemp, CBD from hemp is legal in all U.S. states while CBD extracted from marijuana is not universally legal. To be considered hemp, the plant must contain less than 0.3 percent THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). THC is the main psychoactive compound in marijuana.

The 2018 U.S. Farm bill, enacted in December 2018, authorized hemp production and removed hemp from the Drug Enforcement Agency's list of controlled substances. According to a U.S. Department of Agriculture memorandum, states and Indian tribes must allow interstate shipment of hemp, though they retain the authority to prohibit the growth of hemp within their borders. The memorandum also states, "It is also important to emphasize that the 2018 Farm Bill does not affect or modify the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services or Commissioner of Food and Drugs to regulate hemp under applicable U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) laws".

A recent explosion of new CBD products proclaiming numerous, unproven health benefits has raised questions about the true benefits and risks of CBD.  As CBD products proliferate, U.S. states and the federal government are scrambling to understand the legality of the products under state and federal laws and to regulate their trade. In January 2019, the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy issued a legal analysis of the issue titled, CBD from Industrial Hemp, which includes the statement, "...the Board cannot offer even minimal assurances to the public that these products are both effective and safe."  Several bills were introduced during the 2019 session of the Minnesota Legislature on the topics of cannabis (House/Senate), cannabidiol (House/Senate), and hemp (House/Senate). But it wasn't until the 2019 Special Session that laws passed related to those issues. The new laws join other existing Minnesota statutes about cannabis and hemp.  

One of the 2019 laws created the Sale of Certain Cannabinoid Products Workgroup, and directed it to study the issue and report to the Legislature in January 2020. Another recent law directed the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, in consultation with the departments of Public Safety and Health, to develop a framework for regulating the possession and use of THC resulting from industrial hemp processing, including but not limited to the extraction of CBD or other components. That report was submitted to the legislature in January 2020.

Books and Reports

CBD from Industrial Hemp. Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, 2019. (RM666.C266 C33 2019)

Cortilet, Anthony. Industrial Hemp Research. Minnesota Department of Agriculture, 2015. (HD9155.U62 C67 2015)

Industrial Hemp Pilot Program Annual Report. Minnesota Department of Agriculture, 2017.

Articles

(articles in reverse chronological order)

Faircloth, Ryan. "New Federal Rules Could Put Minnesota's Booming Hemp Industry in Jeopardy, Ag Officials Warn: Minnesota Ag Officials Call the USDA's Interim Standards 'Unworkable' for Growers.Star Tribune, January 10, 2020.

Star Tribune Editorial Board. "A Timely Warning about the Risks in Using CBD: Cure-alls Have Been Hawked Through the Ages. Feds Say Beware of the Latest." Star Tribune, November 27, 2019.

MacKeen, Dawn. "What Are the Benefits of CBD?New York Times, October 16, 2019.

Ferguson, Ellyn. "Fields of Dreams: Thanks to Loosened Federal Restrictions, Farmers are Growing Hopeful About Hemp." CQ, October 15, 2019, p. 12-19.

Lewis, Amanda Chicago. "CBD or THC? Common Drug Test Can’t Tell the Difference." New York Times, October 15, 2019.

Mohr, Holbrook. "Some CBD Vapes Contain Street Drug Instead of the Real Thing,” Associated Press via Star Tribune, September 16, 2019.

Kaul, Greta. "As CBD Market Booms, Minnesota Regulators Try to Catch Up." MinnPost, September 12, 2019.

Brenan, Megan. "14% of Americans Say They Use CBD Products." Gallup, August 17, 2019.

Akpan, Nsikan and Jaimie Leventhal. "Is CBD Legal? Here’s What you Need to Know, According to Science." PBS News Hour, July 12, 2019.

Reiley, Laura. "CBD-Infused Food and Beverages are Still Illegal Under U.S. Law. So Why Are They Everywhere?" Washington Post, June 24, 2019.

Mead, Alice. "Legal and Regulatory Issues Governing Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products in the United States." Frontiers in Plant Science, June 14, 2019.

Moini, Nina. "Minnesota to See First CBD, Hemp Regulations in Budget Bill." Minnesota Public Radio, May 30, 2019.

Crosby, Jackie. "Major U.S. Retailers Have High Hopes for CBD Sales in Oils, Creams, and Gummies.” Star Tribune, May 18, 2019.

Gill, Lisa L. “Can You Take CBD and Pass a Drug Test? Not Always, Even Though it’s Legal; Here’s How to Protect Yourself,” Consumer Reports. May 2019.

Olson, Jeremy. “CBD Sales Take off in Minnesota, Outpacing the Science: Regulators Haven’t Kept up With Retailers’ Claims about Hemp Product.” Star Tribune, April 7, 2019.

Schubert, Keith. "Minnesota's New Untested Miracle Drug: What CBD Can Do For You (Maybe)." City Pages, March 19, 2019.

"States Move Toward Regulating CBD Products." Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, March 7, 2019.

Hay, Mark. "Everything We Know About the Health Risks of Vaping CBD." VICE Newsletter. August 27, 2018.

Hilderbrand, R.L. “Hemp & Cannabidiol: What is a Medicine?Missouri Medicine, July-August 2018.

Internet Resources

CBD Origin -- "The leading resource for CBD information."

DEA Internal Directive Regarding the Presence of Cannabinoids in Products and Materials Made from the Cannabis Plant -- U.S. Department of Justice, Drug Enforcement Administration

FAQS Regarding Minnesota's Industrial Hemp Pilot Program -- Minnesota Department of Agriculture

FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis-Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD) -- U.S. Food and Drug Administration

FDA Warns Company Marketing Unapproved Cannabidiol Products With Unsubstantiated Claims to Treat Cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, Opioid Withdrawal, Pain and Pet Anxiety -- U.S. Food and Drug Administration

Hemp vs Marijuana: Is There a Difference? -- Analytical Cannabis

Legal Opinion on Authorities for Hemp Production -- U.S. Department of Agriculture

State Industrial Hemp Statutes -- National Conference of State Legislatures

What is Cannabidiol? -- Made by Hemp

Recreational Marijuana

As of 2020, the District of Columbia and 15 states – Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Oregon, South Dakota, Vermont, and Washington – have legalized cannabis for some recreational use. In 2012, Colorado and Washington State were the first states to legalize cannabis for recreational use. Most states that have legalized recreational marijuana have done so through ballot initiative. In 2018 Vermont became the first state to legalize cannabis through the legislative process; Illinois followed suit in 2019. Regulations vary by state, with some states like Washington and Colorado taxing and establishing retail environments for marijuana, and other states like Vermont simply allowing residents to grow and possess marijuana in certain quantities, but not sell it.

Minnesota has not legalized recreational marijuana but there have been multiple legislative proposals to do so. Several bills (House/Senate) were introduced in 2019 that would legalize cannabis possession and use in Minnesota. Another bill, HF717, would establish a cannabis task force to more closely investigate issues surrounding legalization. While the issue generated much discussion, none of the bills passed in 2019, though discussion will likely continue during future legislative sessions. In August 2019, Governor Tim Walz announced that he has directed state agencies to be ready to implement policies related to legalized cannabis.

Many states, including Minnesota, have decriminalized the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Minnesota's decriminalization law passed in 1976 (Laws of Minnesota 1976, chapter 42). The current law, Minnesota Statutes 152.027 subd. 4, says that a person "who unlawfully possesses a small amount of marijuana is guilty of a petty misdemeanor". "Small amount" is defined as 42.5 grams or less by Minnesota Statutes 152.01 subd. 16. It does not apply to the resinous form of marijuana.

Books and Reports

Assessment of the Potential Impact of Regulated Marijuana in New York State. Albany, NY: New York State Department of Health, 2018. (KFN5632.5.M37 A87 2018)

Bennett, William J. Going to Pot: Why the Rush to Legalize Marijuana is Harming America. New York: Center Street, 2015. (HV5822.M3 B447 2015)

Berenson, Alex. Tell your Children: The Truth about Marijuana, Mental Illness, and Violence. New York: Free Press, 2019. (HV5822.M3 B449 2019)

Bookbinder, Michael, et al. Cannabis Industry State Tax Guide. United States: Fox Rothschild, 2019. (KF6624.C36 B66 2019)

Caulkins, Jonathan P. Considering Marijuana Legalization: Insights for Vermont and Other Jurisdictions. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2015. (HV5822.M3 C38 2015)

Caulkins, Jonathan P. Marijuana Legalization: What Everyone Needs to Know. New York: Oxford University Press, 2016. (HV5822.M3 M2935 2016)

Davis, Carl, et al. Taxing Cannabis. Washington DC: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, 2019. (KF6624.C36 D38 2019)

The Economic Impact of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado. Denver, CO : Marijuana Policy Group, 2016. (HD9019.M382 U6 2016)

House Concurrent Resolution #52 Creating the Adult Use Cannabis Task Force: Final Report. Delaware: Adult Use Cannabis Task Force, 2018. (HV5822.C3 D3 2018)

Hudak, John. Colorado's Rollout of Legal Marijuana is Suceeding: A Report on the State's Implementation of Legalization. Washington DC: Center for Effective Public Management at Brookings, 2014. (HV5822.M3 H83 2014)

Hudak, John. Marijuana: A Short History. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2016. (HV5822.M3 H832 2016)

Kilmer, Beau, et al. After the Grand Opening: Assessing Cannabis Supply and Demand in Washington State. Santa Monica, CA: RAND Corporation, 2019. (HV5822.C3 K55 2019)

Lee, Martin. Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana: Medical, Recreational, and Scientific. New York: Scribner, 2012. (HV5822.M3 L34 2012)

Peterman, David Randall. Marijuana Use and Highway Safety. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2019. (HV5822.M3 P48)

Reed, Jack. Impacts of Marijuana Legalization in Colorado: A Report Pursuant to Senate Bill 13-283. Denver: Colorado Department of Public Safety, 2018. (HF5822.M3 R44 2018)

Sacco, Lisa. Drug Enforcement in the United States: History, Policy, and Trends. Washington, DC: Congressional Research Service, 2014.

Simms, Nicole. Collateral Costs: Racial Disparities and Injustice in Minnesota's Marijuana Laws. St Paul: Minnesota 2020, 2014. (HV5822.M3 S56 2014)

Articles

(articles in reverse chronological order)

Fertig, Natalie and Mona Zhang. "One in three Americans now live in a state where recreational marijuana is legal." Politico, November 4, 2020.

Van Berkel, Jessie. "Democrats Shaping Plan to Legalize Recreational Marijuana." Star Tribune, November 19, 2019.

Coolican, J. Patrick. "Vaping Epidemic Complicates Marijuana Legalization in Minnesota: Supporters say Rigorously Regulated Market Would Actually Make Both Safer." Star Tribune, October 31, 2019.

Schorr, Parker. "Big Cannabis: Billions up for Grabs as States Move to Legalize Marijuana." Milwaukee Independent, October 10, 2019.

Pugmire, Tim. "New Political Parties Try to Organize Around Support for Legal Marijuana." Minnesota Public Radio, September 25, 2019.

Jaeger, Kyle. "Minnesota Voters Tell House and Senate They Want Marijuana Legalized in Separate Polls." Marijuana Moment, September 4, 2019.

Schultz, David. "Why the Minnesota DFL is Pushing Marijuana Legalization." MinnPost, September 4, 2019.

Van Berkel, Jessie. "Minnesota Democrats Make Push on Recreational Marijuana, Senate GOP Pumps the Brakes." Star Tribune, August 30, 2019.

Pugmire, Tim. "Walz Wants State to be Ready to Roll on Legal Marijuana." Minnesota Public Radio, August 26, 2019.

Callaghan, Peter. "How Much Would Recreational Marijuana Be Worth to Minnesota?" MinnPost, July 10, 2019.

"High But Not Hired: Companies Preparing for Legal Marijuana." KSTP, May 20, 2019.

Coolican, J. Patrick. "Minnesota Senate Rejects Legalizing Recreational Marijuana." Star Tribune, March 12, 2019.

Hargarten, Jeff and Matt DeLong. "The State of Marijuana in Minnesota, According to Data." Star Tribune, March 11, 2019.

Callaghan, Peter. "Is the Legalization of Recreational Marijuana in Minnesota Inevitable?" Minnesota Business, January 31, 2019.

Collins, Jon. "Legalizing Marijuana: Can Minnesota Learn from Other States?" Minnesota Public Radio, January 29, 2019.

Coolican, J. Patrick. "Legislators Begin Pushing Marijuana Legalization Measures." Star Tribune, January 21, 2019.

Schultz, David. "The Case for Decriminalizing Marijuana in Minnesota — And What it Means to Do So." MinnPost, December 14, 2018.

Haffajee, Rebecca, et al. "Behind Schedule: Reconciling Federal and State Marijuana Policy." The New England Journal of Medicine, August 9, 2018. [includes timeline chronicling marijuana-related legislative, judicial, and executive action, 1970-present]

Gallagher, Thomas. “Minnesota’s Incomplete Marijuana Decriminalization–Resinous Form Exception.” Minneapolis Criminal Law Blog, January 26, 2015.

Internet Resources

Marijuana Overview -- National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL)

State Laws -- National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)

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