Minnesota To Have Dispensaries Managed By Municipalities

Minnesota stands on the brink of potentially becoming the first state in almost a decade to launch cannabis dispensaries managed by municipalities. This prospect stems from a provision within the state’s fresh cannabis legislation, permitting cities and counties to establish and operate their own cannabis outlets. Such a move is unprecedented nationwide and has spurred local governments to explore the feasibility of running their own dispensaries.

Until now, only one city has successfully operated a cannabis store: North Bonneville in Washington, which blazed the trail back in 2015. However, as of 2021, the operation ceased.

In Minnesota, cities without existing municipal liquor stores are particularly intrigued by the concept. For instance, municipalities like Edina and Isanti view liquor stores as vital revenue sources, mitigating tax burdens for residents and businesses. However, elsewhere, adopting a state-owned model for cannabis retailers faces hurdles due to federal law conflicts.

According to Paul Armentano from NORML, states like New Mexico and New Hampshire have rejected similar proposals due to the federal illegality of cannabis, fearing legal conflicts for state employees.

State Representative Zack Stephenson, a key figure in legalizing recreational cannabis, notes that the idea of municipal cannabis stores emerged directly from Minnesota’s cities and counties. It’s a tailored approach, drawing inspiration from the successful model of municipal liquor stores.

In cities such as Osseo, St. Joseph, and Cook County, officials are contemplating the potential benefits of running cannabis retail, even though official regulations won’t be released until early 2025.

North Bonneville’s experience illustrates the challenges and pitfalls. While the Cannabis Corner initially thrived, increased competition from neighboring states led to financial struggles. Ultimately, the city dissolved the endeavor.

Despite the risks, cities like Osseo and St. Joseph are enticed by the revenue potential. However, concerns linger, including competition with private businesses and public safety implications.

For Kyle Hartnett of the League of Minnesota Cities, public health considerations loom large. By maintaining control, cities can implement safeguards against underage access and other risks.

Nevertheless, federal illegality poses a significant obstacle, particularly regarding banking services. North Bonneville faced difficulties in finding a bank willing to handle cannabis-related funds.

In the face of these challenges, Minnesota cities continue to weigh the pros and cons, navigating a complex landscape as they contemplate entering the cannabis retail arena.

“Minnesota May Open Some of the First Government-run Cannabis Dispensaries in the U.S.” Www.Mprnews.Org, 3 Jun. 2024, www.mprnews.org/story/2024/03/07/minnesota-may-open-government-run-municipal-cannabis-dispensaries. Accessed 3 Jun. 2024.