CanRenew grant program: More than just ‘reparations’

With the recent legalization of marijuana, Minnesota plans to not only make reparations to residents affected by former marijuana laws, but also give preferential treatment to organizations in those communities. 

All marijuana-related misdemeanors are estimated to be automatically expunged by August 1, 2024. The state created the Cannabis Expungement Board to “review felonies for expungement or resentencing.”

However, the legalization of marijuana and expungements are apparently not enough to make up for marijuana’s former illegality. Organizations in communities impacted by marijuana laws may also qualify for grants.

Minnesota’s Office of Cannabis Management’s CanRenew grant program, funded by tax revenue from cannabis sales, will begin distributing $15 million in grants starting in 2026 to qualifying organizations such as schools, non-profits, and private businesses in communities with residents considered “social equity applicants.” This includes new farmers, those who live in areas that experience more cannabis enforcement, veterans and members of the national guard, and those whose spouses, parents, guardians, children, or they themselves have been convicted of “an offense involving the possession or sale of cannabis or marijuana.” Such organizations must demonstrate their contributions to their communities in an application to the Office of Cannabis Management. 

Sen. Lindsey Port (DFL), who helped write the cannabis bill, refers to this grant program as “a form of reparation” to such communities, according to the Star Tribune. 

Rep. Nolan West (R), however, who voted for the new marijuana law, described the grant program as “just a way to funnel money to [DFL] districts.”  

Perhaps Rep. West is correct. Perhaps this is not solely about justice or equity, but rather self-serving. Whatever one’s opinion on the legalization of marijuana may be, this seems more of an unnecessary effort to garner support than “a form of reparation.”

The CanRenew grant program effectively rewards not just those affected, but those who themselves broke what were, at the time, legitimate laws. Certainly, laws can be created, repealed, and modified, but how can we value the sanctity of the law if the very same action can be condemned and later become not just permissible, but rewarded? And why these crimes in particular? Would the same happen for other controversial laws?  

Whether an organization receives funding should not depend on the formerly illegal marijuana usage of its surrounding residents. The CanRenew grant program goes well above and beyond “reparations.”  

Adriana Isabella is a student at Hillsdale College and a current summer intern at American Experiment.