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An Overview of the New Marijuana Laws in Minnesota

by Aug 1, 2023Criminal Defense Attorney, Drug Crimes, Kevin Sieben

As of August 1, 2023, Minnesota passed comprehensive marijuana legislation that redefines possession, decriminalizes specific quantities, expunges past convictions, and outlines new penalties for violations. We at Sieben Edmunds Miller want our clients to understand the key points of this legislation and to provide an understanding of what the new laws mean for Minnesotans. 

Here is the transcript from a Minnesota Public Radio interview with Minnesota Sen. Lindsey Port and Beau Kilmer, Chair of the Drug Policy Innovation at a non-partisan think tank RAND: 10 Things to Know about Minnesota’s New Marijuana Law 

Legal Possession Limits 

In an unprecedented shift, Minnesota law now permits individuals to possess up to two pounds of marijuana in their homes without criminal penalty. In addition, residents may transport up to two ounces of marijuana in public, a considerable increase compared to previous limits. These laws mark a significant departure from prior regulations, alleviating criminal concerns for Minnesotans engaged in the personal use of marijuana. 

Marijuana Possession Penalties 

However, while the legislation provides a more lenient approach to possession for personal use, penalties still apply for quantities exceeding the specified limits. Possession exceeding two ounces but not more than four ounces in public, or marijuana that is concentrated is defined as fourth-degree cannabis possession. This violation is considered a petty misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $300. This change aims to retain a degree of control and regulation while minimizing the severe impact of criminal charges for marijuana-related offenses. Possession of higher quantities will still be a misdemeanor or felony criminal offense in some situations.  

Expanded Overview from NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) 

Traditionally, NORML has provided a comprehensive overview of marijuana-related penalties. In Minnesota, penalties for possession, sale, and cultivation previously varied greatly depending on the amount and context. These penalties could range from small fines and drug education or treatment programs for minor offenses to potentially years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines for more serious violations. The new laws significantly modify this framework, but for an up-to-date, comprehensive overview of current penalties, it is recommended to visit NORML’s Minnesota page directly. 

Minnesota’s Groundbreaking Approach to Marijuana Conviction Expungement 

The new Minnesota marijuana laws take a proactive stance towards correcting past injustices caused by the War on Drugs, especially as it pertains to marijuana-related offenses. The legislation allows the automatic expungement of past convictions for actions that are no longer considered crimes under the new law. This means that those previously convicted for possessing up to two pounds of marijuana in private or two ounces in public will have their records expunged automatically. 

Expungement is a legal process by which the record of a conviction is effectively “erased” in the eyes of the law. When a conviction is expunged, it will generally not appear in public records or background checks, making it easier for affected individuals to seek employment, housing, and other opportunities that may have been denied to them because of their conviction. 

The automatic nature of these expungements is critical. In many jurisdictions, individuals with past convictions must petition the court to have their records cleared, which can be time-consuming, expensive, and intimidating. By making the process automatic, Minnesota is ensuring that all individuals who qualify, regardless of their resources or knowledge of the legal system, will benefit from this change in the law. 

It’s important to note that this expungement applies only to state-level offenses. Those with federal convictions for marijuana possession will not benefit from these changes, as state and federal laws operate independently. 

Minnesota’s approach to expunging marijuana-related convictions recognizes the impact of past punitive drug policies and seeks to rectify them. It aims to restore the rights and opportunities of individuals who have been disproportionately affected, thereby fostering equity and social justice and enabling more citizens to contribute fully to their communities. It’s a significant step forward in redefining the state’s approach to drug offenses and their societal implications. 

Additional Insights from the Minnesota House of Representatives 

The Minnesota House of Representatives has played a pivotal role in reforming marijuana laws, considering the broader impacts on society. The discussion around marijuana legislation has often included considerations of social justice, public health, and economic implications. The latest changes to marijuana laws aim to address and balance these issues, aiming for a fairer, more equitable system. 

Minnesota’s new marijuana laws represent a significant shift towards a more permissive stance on marijuana possession and use. By allowing residents to possess larger amounts of marijuana without fear of criminal prosecution, Minnesota joins a growing number of states rethinking their approach to marijuana regulation. However, while these new laws provide greater freedoms for individuals, they also come with new responsibilities and guidelines to ensure public safety and order. Minnesotans must familiarize themselves with these new laws and penalties to navigate this changing landscape confidently and legally. 

As the situation continues to evolve, it’s recommended to regularly check resources such as NORML’s Minnesota penalties page and updates from the Minnesota House of Representatives for the most current and accurate information on marijuana laws in the state. 

If you would like to confidentially talk to a lawyer about your marijuana-related question, feel free to contact us, and we will respond promptly.  

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