Cannabis sales in Minnesota are likely to start later than expected. How much later isn't clear

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Minnesota probably won’t meet its goal of launching full-scale retail marijuana sales in the first quarter of 2025 because of the time it will take to draft regulations and issue licenses, the state’s top cannabis regulator acknowledged Thursday.

While Charlene Briner, interim director of the Office of Cannabis Management, didn't totally rule out the possibility of some retailers opening early next year, she conceded during a briefing for reporters that she doesn't know how long it will take until legal marijuana is widely sold across the state.

“I don't think any of can answer that question,” Briner said.

Briner spoke during a briefing that was called to highlight legislation introduced Thursday to make a series of updates to the state law legalizing recreational cannabis for adults, which was enacted last May. Using, possessing and growing marijuana for personal use, within limits, became legal last August. But sales are still a legal gray area.

Many of the proposed changes to the law are aimed at strengthening “social equity” opportunities for people who come from communities deemed harmed by the the prohibition against marijuana to get into the industry legally.

Currently, only a few tribally owned on-reservation shops are legally allowed to sell recreational marijuana in Minnesota because tribal sovereignty exempts them from state regulation.

Depending on when the state's regulations are put in place, and then the first licenses are issued, Briner said, well-capitalized retailers could conceivably get inspected and open their doors “within a few weeks or a couple of months.” But others may need more time to hire and train staff, she added.

“It's not for OCM to determine the timeline between obtaining a license and when your door is open for business,” she said. “I don’t think that any of us can give that definite sort of light-switch-on date.”

There have already been bumps along the way toward establishing a legal marijuana marketplace in Minnesota. Gov. Tim Walz has yet to name a permanent director for the regulatory office. The administration reopened the application process after it emerged that his first nominee hadn't been fully vetted.

Briner said the process in Minnesota is not going slower than in other states. But data compiled by KMSP-TV show that the average time in 20 other states has been 17 months from the vote to legalize to the first retail sales, with a median time of 14 months. It took 14 months in Colorado, the first state to legalize it, while it took Vermont 57 months. Some states took less than a year. Minnesota appears poised to need at least 22 months.

“We are working very quickly, and we’re trying to do it thoughtfully, while also mitigating the risks that we have," Briner said. "We are intensely aware that the gap between full legalization and a regulated market is important to minimize, and we are working as quickly as we can to make that happen.”