Nearly eight months after Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill legalizing recreational marijuana, the state is grappling with significant delays in implementing the law, including finding a director for its Office of Cannabis Management and executing its promised expungement of cannabis-related convictions.
Lack of Leadership
The first appointed director of the new cannabis office resigned, and subsequent candidates have either left state government or have not been finalized, delaying the appointment of a new director until at least mid-February.
According to the Star Tribune, leadership turmoil has impacted several aspects of the law’s rollout, including the much-anticipated expungement of past marijuana-related petty misdemeanors and misdemeanors. Initially promised as an automatic process, it has now been postponed to August due to what state officials describe as “technical and programmatic changes.”
At the same time, the Cannabis Expungement Board, critical for the review of gross misdemeanor and felony convictions, still has two openings that Walz has yet to fill, which further complicates things.
State officials also have not provided a specific start date for recreational cannabis sales, which could mean that consumers will be waiting until next year. Rules for the industry are expected to be published by the end of the year, followed by a public comment period, with adoption anticipated in spring 2025.
Waiting for Expungement
Despite the hurdles, experts like Kurtis Hanna, a lobbyist with Blunt Strategies, told the Star Tribune that slow implementation of marijuana laws is not uncommon, citing the lack of prioritization typical in state governments.
Minnesota’s law stands out for its comprehensive approach to expungement, including considerations for felony-level marijuana convictions – a feature that earned it high rankings from reform groups like the Last Prisoner Project.
However, this also means a more complex and lengthy review process.
“Unfortunately, it’s a pretty standard tale of a decent bill that never gets implemented,” Frances Trousdale, a policy associate with LPP, told the outlet. “We see a lot of it.”
The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which is responsible for the automatic expungements, cited “overall technical infrastructure needs” as the reason for the delay, emphasizing the challenges in identifying eligible records and informing affected individuals.
In the meantime, the Office of Cannabis Management is conducting public surveys to gather input on the regulatory framework, with a focus on licensing, social equity, and product standards.