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Let’s Talk MN Cannabis Legalization with the Weed Lady Lawyer

Jen Randolph Reise, the self-dubbed Weed Lady Lawyer, fields our far-flung Qs about the brave new world of legalized cannabis.

You can imagine our horror: Tuesday arrived, and our newsroom lacked even the tiniest nugget of cannabis coverage on the day recreational weed became legal in Minnesota. We devoted a freaking week to the stuff last fall!

Thankfully, we managed to track down an honest-to-god weed lawyer in Jen Randolph Reise. She's head of business and cannabis at her freshly launched St. Paul law firm, North Star Law Group, a one-stop shop for all your marijuana-related legal needs in the Twin Cities.

Enjoy our phone conversation with Randolph Reise, who says she just recently busted out the superb Weed Lady Lawyer branding.

On the importance of weed-law literacy...

As a weed lawyer, I like to have fun and I’m really excited about all the things we now get to do with lesser or no penalties. But somebody said to me last week, “Everything is legal now.” Err, hold your horses, peeps! We’re just not quite there. 

On what won't happen right away...

We don’t have dispensaries yet. Unfortunately we won’t for 12 to 18 months. I’ve seen three announcements of tribes opening dispensaries so far. So the new law does several different things: It sets up a whole framework for adult use legalization in Minnesota, and it does that in a comprehensive, balanced, thoughtful way… which is why we have a 350-page bill. Included in that is a whole new regulator, the Office of Cannabis Management, that’ll have to hire staff, promulgate rules, and develop a license application. Only then are people allowed to commercially grow and sell that to Minnesotans.

On your instant THC privileges...  

Home grow starts today, and possession of up to two ounces is legal today. That means we stop putting people in jail for possessing small amounts of a plant. The Minnesota legislature wasn’t necessarily thinking everyone should be walking around with weed, just that if people are walking around with weed, police should leave them alone. Prohibition has failed, and been a poor allocation of societal resources. That’s why we’re in this very weird time where it’s no longer prohibited to possess, but it’s also true that nobody is allowed to legally sell it, except for the tribes—all power to them. That’s the chapter that starts today. It is a super weird time!

On giving the gift of smokable marijuana... 

You could give your friend a joint, that’d be fine. There’s a gift exception in the bill, and it basically says you can give up to two ounces of weed to someone for no remuneration—that means no bartering, trading, paying for it with chicken. It really needs to be a gift; we did see some states where people got kinda funny with the gift rule. Instead, if you’re home growing and you’ve created quite a bit of flower, you can share that with your family and friends.

On getting behind the wheel...

I know the police are really quite concerned about people driving high. There was a really good article in MinnPost about this yesterday that talks about what kinds of searches police can do, how there’s no breathalyzer for cannabis. Short version: If cops smell weed in the car when they pull you over, they may well look harder for things like open-container issues—you’re not supposed to be smoking in your car nor are you supposed to be carrying open containers of weed within reach of the driver. Just like alcohol. You can definitely get tagged for both of those things.

On potential issues for non-citizens and other groups...    

It’s a really unfortunate circumstance that we still have some people who need to be really thoughtful about the fact that marijuana is still very much illegal at the federal level. That includes people who have to go through the immigration process, people who hold various federal licenses, certifications, and security clearances. Same for commercial trucking licenses. Minnesota doesn’t have the power to change that.

On erasing bullshit weed offenses from the past...

The idea is, eventually after the Office of Cannabis Management sets up an expungement and review board, that misdemeanors will be automatically expunged. Above that, expungement can happen sort of by application. We’re super excited to work with people, help them file paperwork and speed the process up. 

On workplace weed concerns...

Oh, man. It’s so complicated. Employers are only starting to wrap their arms around it; it’s going to be a little bit of craziness here. In general, the new law says that employers may not drug test employees for cannabis, unless they’re in a safety-sensitive position. However, that definition is fairly broad—it includes most healthcare workers and people who drive in all sorts of different ways. As for them, the employer is allowed to test, but the employer should then think carefully about whether they care about the testing. The thing about cannabis testing is, it’s only going to tell you someone has used THC in the past month or so. It does not tell you whether someone is impaired on the job. Our advice to employers has been: Instead of worrying about testing, focus on whether the employee is doing a good job at work.

On calming down holdout weed skeptics...

People are probably feeling a lot of different things in Minnesota today, right? I think it’s interesting that there’s so much thought that we’re reinventing the wheel. A lot of the media coverage has been like, “Whoa, tell me about marijuana!” Some people are still really concerned. About children, highway safety. To them I say: There’s a reason we’re the 23rd state to legalize. We really took our time and watched what happened in other states, and learned from their mistakes. Places like Colorado and California have been legal long enough that there’s good data that shows highway crashes do not go up when you legalize; teen use actually drops, because you have dispensaries that are careful instead of black market sellers. And, importantly, you see opioid-related deaths decrease, because people are finally able to use something for their pain that is nonaddictive and doesn’t kill them.   

On life as a weed lawyer...

It’s hilarious because people have two reactions: 1) Can you give me free samples? 2) I bet you help people get out of jail. And I don’t help people do either of those things! I’m a business lawyer by training. I love to help businesses launch and scale successfully, and I felt like this was the right moment to pivot to cannabis, which I love, and help businesses there grow and launch effectively. I get to read and re-read the 350-page bill, and weed through all the regs and tell everybody the bit that applies to them. That’s a fun place to be.

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