Minnesota Opens Applications for Early Marijuana Business Licenses Today

Minnesota veterans and individuals with past marijuana convictions can begin applying for the state’s first marijuana business licenses starting today.

The Minnesota Legislature approved a “preapproval” licensing process for the Office of Cannabis Management, allowing regulators to expedite approval for some businesses. This initiative is in preparation for the state’s cannabis market launch in 2025.

The initial step involves verifying eligibility for early licensing. Applicants must meet the “social equity applicant” criteria, which include veterans, new farmers, residents from high-poverty areas, and individuals convicted of cannabis possession or sale before legalization last year.

State regulators will first verify applications to ensure eligibility. Once confirmed, eligible applicants can apply for the license starting July 24. Applications must include comprehensive business plans, employee training details, security measures, and industry experience.

A lottery will randomly select qualifying applicants, a method that sparked debate in the state capitol. Charlene Briner, interim director of the Office of Cannabis Management, defended the process as thorough and legally robust.

“We’re conducting a comprehensive review to ensure all application requirements are met. This is not just a random lottery but a selection among prepared, qualified applicants,” Briner told WCCO.

Among the 327,000 Minnesota veterans eligible as social equity applicants is Nick Rahn, owner of The Warrior’s Garden, a hemp-derived THC and CBD product business. Rahn plans to apply for an early license.

“As a veteran, I can apply early, which is great. Being prepared for the January 1 market launch is crucial for our business,” Rahn said.

State law limits the number of licenses available in the preapproval process:

  • Cannabis microbusiness: 100
  • Cannabis mezzobusiness: 25
  • Cannabis cultivators: 13
  • Cannabis manufacturers: 6
  • Cannabis retailers (dispensaries): 38
  • Cannabis wholesalers: 20
  • Cannabis transporters: 20
  • Cannabis testing: 50
  • Cannabis delivery: 10

Preapproved licenses do not allow retail sales before the market launch next year. However, early-approved cultivators and microbusinesses can start growing crops this fall, pending local government approval and compliance with medical cannabis rules.

“We aim to have products ready for retail when stores open,” Briner said.

The Office of Cannabis Management is now accepting applications to verify social equity eligibility. The preapproval application portal will open on July 24 and close on August 12. Applicants will be notified if selected. General public applications will open next year.

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