Under pressure from advocates, Minnesota lawmakers are discussing the proposal to allow early marijuana cultivation

Pressure is mounting on Minnesota lawmakers and regulators to expedite licensing of marijuana growers ahead of dispensaries in preparation for the launch of the recreational marijuana market next year.

Currently, the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) cannot issue cultivation permits until it establishes regulations for the recreational sector, a process expected to be completed in early 2025.

To address the urgency of the situation, senators have proposed allowing certain individuals to begin growing marijuana this year under existing rules for medical cannabis cultivation.

Marijuana leaves (Credits: Virginia Mercury)

Specifically, only social equity applicants who have been pre-approved for a cannabis business license and received local zoning approval would be allowed to start growing early. Social equity applicants are defined as those who have been directly or indirectly harmed by prior criminal enforcement of marijuana laws.

The proposal aims to enable rapid implementation of cultivation rules, which may allow cultivation permits to become operational earlier.

However, the use of the medical cannabis rules for early cultivation would be optional and not mandatory for the OCM. The OCM will evaluate whether this option is necessary while ensuring the commitment to equality and effective market introduction.

Advocates in Minnesota’s cannabis community have emphasized the importance of starting cultivation before retail sales to avoid potential delays or chaos in the market rollout.

Marijuana plant (Credits: Vox)

They warn that without an early start to cultivation, Minnesota may not have a cannabis supply chain until 2026, delaying expected tax revenue from the cannabis market.

While the proposal has received support, some advocates believe it is too narrowly defined to include only social justice applicants. They argue that any well-prepared company should be eligible to start cultivation this year, and that the bill should set a specific timetable for the start of cultivation.

The proposal was added to a broader cannabis policy bill by the Senate Commerce and Consumer Protection Committee and heads to a floor vote. However, there is still room for adjustments to address stakeholder concerns and ensure a smooth rollout of Minnesota’s recreational marijuana market.