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Understanding Marijuana Laws in Minnesota: Tips from a Minneapolis Defense Attorney

The legalization of recreational marijuana in Minnesota has cannabis users feeling good. However, these Marijuana laws have left it unclear as to when full legalization applies and when legal dispensaries will become part of the fabric of Minnesota life. In fact, legalized retail sales may be as far away as 2025.

But as of July 1st, 2023, adult (over 21) possession is legal within limits, and the criminal sanctions for possession end as of August 1, 2023.

This represents a stark change from the old system of decriminalized minor possession, misdemeanor possession under certain circumstances, and felony possession and trafficking.

The most important things to understand are that trafficking marijuana remains illegal, possession over allowable quantities remains illegal, you face DWI charges if you drive under marijuana’s influence, and you cannot provide it to underage people or use it in any area prohibited by law, such as in a school.

Only licensed dealers will have the right to sell weed, and anyone caught selling marijuana or possessing prohibited quantities can still face serious criminal charges.

However, individuals who wish to cultivate marijuana for personal use and enjoy the drug in the privacy of their own homes can breathe a sigh of relief. In a way, the current law is like one allowing you to make your own liquor and consume it. However, depending on local laws, there may be prohibitions on smoking it in public.

Also, Minnesota state law prohibits driving under the influence of marijuana. If you are impaired by marijuana to any degree behind the wheel, you are in violation of Minnesota’s DWI law. We highly recommend driving only when you are fully sober. In a zero-tolerance state, any evidence of impairment, even to a small degree, is enough to sustain a DWI conviction.

Eventually, when dispensaries are established, those who wish to simply buy marijuana and not grow it at home will have that option. But until then, growing your own, using it at home, avoiding driving while under its influence, and refraining from selling or sharing your supplies is the way to keep on the right side of the law.

What Are the Specifics of the New Recreational Marijuana Law?

Minnesota’s new law allows you to possess and use your own home-cultivated marijuana, but it is not a free for all. As with alcohol, legal restrictions remain in place. Recreational marijuana, then, is legal if the following apply:

  • You are over 21
  • You cultivate eight or fewer plants, with no more than 4 flowering at a time
  • You never use it around minors
  • You never drive while under its influence
  • In public or in a vehicle, you possess less than 2 grams of cannabis flower, less than 8 grams of cannabis concentrate, and edible cannabis with less than 800 milligrams of THC
  • You possess less than 2 pounds of marijuana at home
  • You never sell or distribute marijuana

If you violate any of these terms, you may face a misdemeanor- or felony marijuana possession charge or a DWI. A marijuana trafficking charge can still land you in prison.

Felony Marijuana Possession in Minnesota After August 1st, 2023

Felony possession of marijuana in Minnesota refers to the unlawful possession of marijuana in amounts that exceed the limits defined by state law. While some marijuana offenses are misdemeanors, possessing larger quantities of the drug can lead to felony charges.

Under the new law, Minnesota statutes differentiate between possession of marijuana in plant form and possession of concentrated forms such as cannabis oil or wax, and the following amounts of each constitutes marijuana possession:

  • Two pounds or more of cannabis flower
  • 16 grams or more of THC in edible products
  • Possessing one kilogram or more THC is a felony and classified as a 1st degree-controlled substance crime
  • Possession of 500 grams or more of THC is also a felony and classified as a 2nd-degree controlled substance crime
  • Possession of 200 grams or more of THC is a felony classified as a 3rd-degree controlled substance crime
  • Possession of 16 grams to 200 grams of  THC is a felony classified as a 1st-degree controlled substance crime
  • The cultivation of 23 or more cannabis plants


Felony Marijuana Possession Penalties in Minnesota

The penalties for felony marijuana possession in Minnesota vary based on the specific circumstances of the case and the defendant’s criminal history. Those convicted face imprisonment, fines, or both. The state of Minnesota has established a range of sentences that judges can impose for felony marijuana possession.

According to the Minnesota sentencing guidelines, a person convicted of felony marijuana possession faces a prison sentence of up to five years and a fine of up to $10,000. The time in prison and the amount of the fine depend on the quantity of marijuana possessed, whether it was for personal use or intended for sale, and the individual’s criminal record.

Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession in Minnesota

The State of Minnesota, under the new recreational cannabis legalization law, deems the following instances to constitute misdemeanor marijuana possession:

  • Possessing one to two pounds of cannabis anywhere other than your home is a gross misdemeanor
  • Possession of cannabis weighing between four ounces and one pound outside of your home is classified as 3rd degree cannabis possession crime
  • Possession of between two ounces and four ounces of cannabis outside of your residence is a petty misdemeanor
  • Possession of any quantity of cannabis within a motor vehicle that is not sealed in its original, authorized packaging is a misdemeanor offense, similar to having open alcohol containers in your vehicle. However, cannabis carried in your trunk or other areas where the driver is not present can be outside of its original packaging.  This is similar to rules that allow people to sip on martinis in the rear of a limousine, except you cannot use marijuana in the vehicle.

Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession Penalties in Minnesota

Upon conviction, defendants face fines, probation, or a combination of both.

Judges can sentence offenders in aggravated cases to up to one year in the county jail.

Petty Misdemeanor Marijuana Possession in Minnesota

Prior to the legal change, Minnesota had decriminalized marijuana possession, treating small-scale possession of marijuana as a petty misdemeanor akin to a traffic ticket. Those caught with under 42.5 grams faced a fine of up to $200 and no criminal record, except for a petty misdemeanor.

The primary purpose of this approach was to reduce the burden on the criminal justice system and minimize the negative consequences associated with a criminal record for minor marijuana offenses. Now the state has passed a law fully legalizing possession in allowable amounts, eliminating the decriminalized gray area. However, petty misdemeanor marijuana offenses remain. Like decriminalized marijuana, petty misdemeanor marijuana offenses carry a fine and avoid the harsher consequences of higher-level misdemeanors and felonies.

If charged with a petty misdemeanor marijuana offense, you face civil fines rather than criminal penalties. According to the new law, possession of between two and four ounces of marijuana while not at home is a petty misdemeanor.

Minnesota’s Medical Marijuana Rule

Minnesota has implemented a medical marijuana program that allows patients with qualifying conditions to access and use marijuana for medical purposes. The Minnesota Medical Cannabis Program has provided a legal framework for the production, distribution, and use of medical marijuana. Though dispensaries for recreational marijuana are still years away, those using cannabis for medical treatments can continue purchasing and using marijuana from approved sources.

This section will provide an overview of Minnesota’s medical marijuana law and when possession of marijuana is considered legal under this program.

Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis Program was established in 2014 with the aim of providing relief to patients suffering from debilitating medical conditions. The law permits the use of medical marijuana for specific qualifying conditions, including but not limited to cancer, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, seizures, severe and persistent muscle spasms, and terminal illnesses with a life expectancy of less than one year.

Under the program, patients with qualifying conditions must register with the Minnesota Department of Health and obtain a medical cannabis registry card. Registered patients are then allowed to purchase medical marijuana from licensed cannabis manufacturers in the state. The program strictly regulates the production, distribution, and possession of medical marijuana to ensure safety and compliance with state laws.

Medical marijuana in Minnesota is available in various forms, including oils, pills, capsules, vaporizable liquids, and topical applications. The specific form and dosage are determined based on the patient’s condition and the recommendations of their healthcare provider.

The medical use of marijuana offers several potential benefits for patients. It has been reported to alleviate symptoms such as pain, nausea, muscle spasms, and seizures. Medical marijuana may also help improve appetite and sleep patterns, particularly for patients undergoing chemotherapy or dealing with chronic pain. Additionally, it can provide palliative care for patients with terminal illnesses

While the use of medical marijuana is helpful in many cases, it’s important for patients to avoid misusing their medical marijuana, which can land them in hot water. For example, driving under the influence of marijuana, even medical marijuana, is a serious DWI offense.

Fighting back against marijuana-related charges requires knowledge of the state’s laws and regulations. Though legalized, the state still restricts the distribution and possession of marijuana. As with alcohol, the end of prohibition does not create a free for all. You can still face serious charges if you violate the state’s restrictions on cannabis.

Talk to an Attorney About Marijuana Laws in Minneapolis

Seeking legal advice and representation from experienced criminal defense firms can greatly increase your chances of a favorable outcome.. If you require assistance with a marijuana possession case or have legal questions, contact Gerald Miller, P.A., a trusted criminal defense firm with extensive experience in Minnesota.  Contact Gerald Miller, P.A., to schedule a cannabis lawyer consultation.

Related Content:
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About the author

Gerald Miller

Gerald Miller is a top-notch and experienced DWI/DUI lawyer at Gerald Miller P.A. in Minneapolis, MN. He has more than 35 years of experience in Criminal Defense practice. He has also been a mentor to numerous DUI/DWI defense attorneys.

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