Why it matters: Minnesota has limited local governments’ control over marijuana retailers, but it behooves cities and counties to take the time to exercise their authority wisely.
Come Aug. 1, Minnesota will be the 23rd state with legal marijuana.
It will take longer than that, however, for the state to establish the regulatory framework for legal sale — quite likely a year or more. In the meantime, it behooves Mankato to swiftly approve its planned moratorium on establishing “pot shops” in the city, and it will behoove other municipalities and counties to do the same.
The legislation passed late last week and awaiting the promised signature of Gov. Tim Walz limits local authority over marijuana. Local control was one of the major friction points in crafting the legalization bill. Retail licenses may be limited by population, but local governments must allow at least one license per 12,500 residents.
That works out to 3.5 licenses for Mankato, at a minimum. And there are decisions to make on that, limited as the options may be.
The state issues licenses, and that cannot happen until the regulating commission is established and procedures set up. In the meantime, Mankato — and Minnesota’s counties and other municipalities — must decide whether to hold to the minimum standard, set a higher ceiling or allow the market to decide.
Those decisions can, and must, be made with deliberate speed. No local moratorium should stand once the state is ready to start issuing licenses and collecting the authorized tax. And no seller should be permitted to operate on the basis that it is better to seek forgiveness than to ask permission. We should not have a stampede of pot shops open prematurely.
The task, for the state and local governments, is to do the job quickly — and to do it right. Doing it right demands an initial pause.
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