A bill to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana is making its way through the Minnesota legislature. On Wednesday, lawmakers heard about potential impact on the state's agriculture industry.

Rep. Ryan Winkler (DFL-Golden Valley) told the House Agriculture Committee that small and medium-sized businesses would get a four-year head start on growing cannabis before any large competitors can enter the market.

"You cannot cultivate, manufacture, distribute and retail cannabis all with one operation unless you are very, very small," Winkler said.

Judson Bemis is chair of Smart Approaches to Marijuana Minnesota, a group that believes the science does not support commercialization of recreational use. In his testimony, he asked the House Agriculture Committee to consider four potential issues:

  • Water
  • Energy
  • Pollution
  • Black market

But several other hemp farmers testified in support, including the founder of 40 Acres Cooperative in Pine County.

"Creating safe access to cannabis in Minnesota with specific policies that address social equity will result in a just and fair cannabis industry and economic vitality that our rural communities need and our farmers need," Angela Dawson said.

14 states have legalized recreational marijuana.

"Legalization of adult-use cannabis is coming to Minnesota one time or another," Winkler said. "As more and more states legalize cannabis, the question is not whether we are able to stop the trend, the question is whether we are well prepared to do this right from the beginning."

Duluth lawmakers Reps. Liz Olson (DFL) and Jen Schultz (DFL) have signed onto the bill.

The Agriculture Committee was the fourth of 15 it must go through. It's headed to the Environment and Natural Resource Finance Committee next.

There is a companion bill in the Minnesota Senate that has passed one committee.