By Shawna Mizelle and Sydney Kashiwagi, CNN
Washington (CNN) — Democratic Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota signed a bill into law on Tuesday legalizing recreational marijuana use in the state.
With Walz’s signature, Minnesota becomes the 23rd state to legalize adult-use cannabis and the third Midwestern state to do so.
“What we know right now is prohibition does not work. We’ve criminalized a lot of folks. We’re going to start the expungement process on those records. We have a situation where buying cannabis on the streets is dangerous,” Walz said at a signing ceremony Tuesday, adding that adults should be able to make their own decisions “around these types of choices.”
The Minnesota House and Senate chambers, which are both Democratic-led – passed the bill earlier this month with bipartisan support – after months of review following its introduction in January.
Under the measure, Minnesota residents who are 21 years and older will be able to possess up to two ounces of marijuana flower in public and two pounds at home starting August 1. It also gives people with marijuana convictions a chance to clear their records by automatically expunging low-level convictions and establishing a review board to determine eligibility for higher-level offenses.
Additionally, the legislation sets up an Office of Cannabis Management, which will oversee the regulation and sale of cannabis products in the state.
“This bill creates a safe, well-regulated legal marketplace, and includes best practices for consumer protection, health, and public safety. It also prioritizes a robust expungement program, so people who have been disproportionately impacted by our current cannabis laws can move on with their lives. It is time for legalization, and I’m proud to carry this bill forward,” Democratic state Rep. Zack Stephenson, the bill’s sponsor, said in a news release ahead of the final passage.
While Stephenson said the regulatory and expungement efforts would begin once the law takes effect, he emphasized on Twitter that changes would not happen overnight. He does not expect licensed dispensaries for up to 18 months, and he noted that expunging “tens of thousands” of past cannabis convictions could take years to complete.
Marijuana legalization now joins a slew of other progressive measures that Walz has recently authorized including legislation that restores the voting rights of thousands of convicted felons and a measure codifying the right to abortion into state law.
This story has been updated with additional information.
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