A key Minnesota law enforcement agency has issued a notice laying out the process for expunging prior marijuana convictions as part of the state’s new legalization law, saying that “work is underway” to provide that relief.
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) said in an update published on Friday that approximately 66,000 cannabis records are expected to be automatically sealed under the legalization law taking effect on August 1. Another 230,000 are set to be reviewed by the Expungement Review Board at the state Department of Corrections.
“Criminal history records will soon contain a notice that cannabis-related offenses may be eligible for expungement under the new Adult-Use Cannabis law,” BCA said. “The specifics on how it will work and what the language will say are being developed now.”
Record sealing starts at BCA, but cases that are identified as eligible for relief will also then be expunged by the courts and local law enforcement agencies. The bill also creates a Cannabis Expungement Board that will be responsible for facilitating the record sealing.
Some Minnesotans will have certain criminal records expunged thanks to a pair of laws passed by the Minnesota Legislature. Work is underway at @MnDPS_BCA to make this happen. Learn how expungement works in our latest #DPSBlog.https://t.co/zHniBujLkg pic.twitter.com/6F5JPaHbYR
— MnDPS_DPS (@MnDPS_DPS) June 9, 2023
BCA said that it will need to make “technical and programmatic” changes to its Criminal History System, so it expects that offenses will continue to appear on public records until ” closer to August 2024.”
Meanwhile, the bureau said that a separate piece of enacted legislation provides for additional expungements of prior conviction records, as well as a petition process for people to request relief from the courts.
After internally expunging records, BCA will need to send a notice to the judicial branch, which will then “seal all related records, including records of the person’s arrest, indictment, trial, verdict, and dismissal or discharge of the case.”
Under the cannabis legislation that Gov. Tim Walz (D) signed into law last month, the bureau will also need to submit a report to legislative committees after completing the automatic expungements with “summary data” and “the total number” of cases that were cleared.
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While legalization of low-level possession and home cultivation goes into effect on August 1, it will take longer for the state’s first adult-use retailers to open. The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), which is the main regulatory body overseeing the program, will be formally established next month and then begin creating the infrastructure for licensing.
However, the state has shown that it’s eager to expeditiously stand up the industry, and Walz said last week that Indian tribes in the state may be able to start selling to adult consumers sooner than standard licensees.
Even before Walz signed the reform bill, the state launched a website that serves as a hub for information about the new law. Officials have also already started soliciting vendors to help build a licensing system for recreational marijuana businesses.
Democratic-Farmer-Labor legislators are pointing to the achievement on cannabis reform as a direct result of voters putting the party in the majority in both chambers after last year’s election.
The legislation that advanced through both chambers is an iteration of the 2021 House-passed bill from former Majority Leader Ryan Winkler (D), who now serves as campaign chairman of the advocacy coalition MN is Ready.
As of August 1, adults 21 and older will be able to possess in public up to two ounces of cannabis and they will be allowed to cultivate up to eight plants at home, four of which can be mature. People can possess up to two pounds of marijuana in their residences.
Gifting up to two ounces of marijuana without remuneration between adults will be permitted.
It’s expected to take 12-18 months for licenses to be issued and regulated sales to start. As of March 1, 2025, existing medical cannabis businesses can receive new combination licenses that would allow them to participate in the adult-use market.
Certain marijuana misdemeanor records will also be automatically expunged, with implementation beginning in August. BCA will be responsible for identifying people who are eligible for relief to the courts, which will process the expungements. A newly created Cannabis Expungement Board will also consider felony cannabis offenses for relief, including potential sentence reductions for those still incarcerated.
In addition to creating a system of licensed cannabis businesses, municipalities and counties can own and operate government dispensaries.
On-site consumption permits can be approved for events, and cannabis delivery services will be permitted under the bill.
Local governments will not be allowed to prohibit marijuana businesses from operating in their areas, though they can set “reasonable” regulations on the time of operation and location while also limiting the number of cannabis business licenses based on population size.
There will be a gross receipts tax on cannabis sales in the amount of 10 percent, which will be applied in addition to the state’s standard 6.875 percent sales tax.
Eighty percent of revenue will go into the state’s general fund—with some monies earmarked for grants to help cannabis businesses, fund substance misuse treatment efforts and other programs—and 20 percent will go to local governments.
OCM will be established in July, and it will be responsible for regulating the market and issuing cannabis business licenses. There will be a designated Division of Social Equity.
The legislation will promote social equity, in part by ensuring diverse licensing by scoring equity applicants higher. People living in low-income neighborhoods and military veterans who lost honorable status due to a cannabis-related offense will be considered social equity applicants eligible for priority licensing. People convicted of cannabis offenses, or who have an immediate family member with such a conviction, will also qualify.
A poll released last month found that 64 percent of Minnesota registered voters support creating a regulated marijuana market, including 81 percent of Democrats and a 49 percent plurality of Republicans.
Two polls released in September found that the majority of Minnesota residents support adult-use marijuana legalization—and one survey showed that even more Minnesotans approve of the state’s move to legalize THC-infused edibles that was enacted last year.
A survey conducted by officials with the House at the annual State Fair that was released in September also found majority support for legalization. That legislature-run poll found that 61 percent of Minnesotans back legalizing cannabis for adult use.