Minnesota marijuana: Early cultivation still open in Senate

ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - For the first time, there’s an opening for early cultivation of recreational cannabis in Minnesota.

The law passed last year legalized adult use marijuana, but retailers can’t legally sell it until early next year.

And growers were expected to get licenses at the same time.

The Senate author, Sen. Lindsey Port, (DFL-Burnsville), amended her bill to allow cultivators to get licenses at the end of this year, about three months ahead of retailers.

This year’s bills in the House and Senate already allowed for pre-approval on licenses, so businesses would know they were going to be allowed to open a business at the eventual launch date.

But that launch date was still on track to be the same for everybody — whether they’re big or small or growers or manufacturers or retailers.

"If all of the licensing goes out at the same time, what you're going to see is cultivation starts and then there's a substantial lag for any kind of manufacturing and any kind of retail, because there is just not going to be product," said Leili Fatehi, a cannabis lobbyist at Blunt Strategies. "There's not going to be legal product on the shelf."

The amended bill would let social equity applicants get an early start on growing – people affected by previous marijuana laws and people who’ve been living in Minnesota’s poorer neighborhoods.

Cannabis business hopefuls were happy to see the door crack open for early cultivation, but they want it even wider, so any cultivators could get started early.

"We have a lot of social equity applicants that are planning to be retailers," said Fatehi. "Their businesses will not be successful if we don't have a viable market with products for them to sell. And so, you know, they're all sitting on their hands. They're unable to get investments. They are burning through the capital."

The House has already passed its cannabis bill and without any early cultivation.

If the Senate passes this bill, they’ll have to work it out in conference committee.