Minnesota unveils new program to provide ‘reparations’ to communities over-policed for marijuana offenses

In addition to legalizing marijuana for recreational users, Minnesota is initiating a new program that will invest millions of dollars into communities disproportionately affected by enforcement of the law when the drug was illegal. 

Some state lawmakers have dubbed this initiative to be a “form of reparation,” as it is designed to provide economic relief to residents who had been convicted of marijuana possession and other weed-related offenses.

Called “CanRenew,” the grant program was enacted as part of the state’s new recreational marijuana law which allows residents to use the drug without a license, though it is still illegal for unlicensed dispensers to sell.

Pot was legalized as of August 1 this year, while the CanRenew program will go into effect in 2026. Once implemented, it will award $15 million to eligible organizations in communities, that have, as “The Star Tribute” reported, “high concentrations of people who were convicted for a marijuana offense or had family members who were convicted.”


Marijuana plant

A new Minnesota law legalizes recreational pot use and enacts a program of reparations for state communities negatively affected by policing of the drug. (AP Photo/Jim Mone, File)

Communities with a large number of veterans, high poverty rates and those that have “experienced a disproportionately large amount of cannabis enforcement” may receive the grants, the new law states.

State Sen. Lindsey Port, who sponsored the bill in the Senate, called the program a “form of reparation,” adding, “Direct harm has been done to communities by prohibition and by the state, and it is our responsibility to undo that harm. This is really our first major investment in doing that, and it should have the same kind of lasting effects that, unfortunately, the war on drugs has had on communities of color.”

The Minnesota lawmaker, a member of the state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), noted she knows of no other initiative like this in the United States, and stated that the money for the grants will come out of tax revenue from cannabis sales.

According to the state’s new cannabis law, there is a 10% tax on all marijuana product sales. 

The program will be handled by Minnesota’s new “Office of Cannabis Management,” which is still being formed.

According to the Star Tribune, the office will “will distribute the grants to community organizations such as schools, nonprofits, private businesses and local governments in hopes of spurring development and prosperity.”


Activist holding sign

FILE – Amita Wolfe holds a sign supporting the legalization of marijuana, May 30, 2023, in St. Paul, Minn. Minnesotans can legally possess and grow their own marijuana for recreational purposes starting Tuesday, Aug. 1, subject to limits meant to keep a lid on things while the state sets up a full-blown legal cannabis industry.  (AP Photo/Abbie Parr, file))

Organizations applying for the grants must demonstrate they are committed to projects that will “improve community-wide outcomes or experiences.”

The CanRenew program is just one of several initiatives in Minnesota’s new law that will help repair communities from previous heavy marijuana policing. The Star Tribune stated, “Minnesota will also automatically expunge misdemeanor marijuana cases from residents’ records, and set up a Cannabis Expungement Board to review felony cases.”

Also, state residents who meet “social equity” criteria will be eligible for weed business licenses.

The outlet cited studies showing that “Black Americans have historically been arrested and charged with marijuana crimes at much higher rates than whites despite both groups using marijuana at similar rates.” Port added that she expects members of areas of Minnesota with higher African American populations to receive most of the grant money. 

GOP state Rep. Nolan West, who voted for the recreational law, spoke out against the CanRenew program, claiming, “It’ll be wasted. It’s just a way to funnel money to [DFL] districts.”

Fox News Digital reached out to the DFL Party for comment on the passage of the CanRenew program.


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