by Jane McClure
Edible products and beverages containing THC are now legal in Minnesota, prompting long lines, crowded stores and manufacturers and distributors scrambling to keep up with demand. The legalization, which happened July 1, also has cities throughout Minnesota looking at how they should regulate product sales.
THC products have been used to alleviate pain for people with some forms of disability. THC is an abbreviation for tetrahydrocannabinol. It’s the ingredient in cannabis that causes a person to get “high.”
The availability of THC products is not to be confused with the recent state action to add gummies and chews to the state’s medical cannabis program. But some people with disabilities note that they have sought the newly legalized THC products as an alternative to the state program, which has requirements for eligibility.
Minnesotans aged 21 or older can now buy edibles and beverages containing up to 5 milligrams of THC per serving and 50 milligrams per package. Packages must be tamper-proof and childproof. Packaging is restricted so that it would not appeal to children, with cartoon characters or look like packaging for children’s products.
While gummy candies are a popular THC product, breweries have announced that they will produce seltzers with THC.
Nothing But Hemp, 844 Grand Ave., and its sister stores in four other Minnesota cities, have seen a steady flow of customers wanting the new products. “It really hasn’t stopped,’ said CEO Steven Brown. “We can’t keep up with the demand.”
Nothing But Hemp sells an array of hemp products, ranging from CBD oils to clothing made of hemp. The company has a dozen franchise stores and delivery hubs in Minnesota and Florida.
The Grand Avenue store, which is moving to larger quarters soon, has quadrupled its workforce with about 20 workers now. Brown said the company has had to drop same-day delivery as demand greatly exceeds available products. It also paused virtual consultations.
The company is getting more than 500 orders for products each day, said Brown. Its capacity is about 200 orders per day.
“It’s pretty incredible,” Brown said.
News that THC-infused products are legal sparked some controversy. House Democrats said they pushed legislation through quietly, so that it wouldn’t be blocked by the republican-controlled Senate.
But the upshot of that is a law with fairly few restrictions. The League of Minnesota Cities and individual cities are looking at how to regulate products on a local basis.
Some cities are already pausing THC sales, at least temporarily. News reports indicate that St. Joseph and Marshall city leaders are among those who have placed moratoriums to halt sale and manufacture of hemp-derived edibles. Waite Park and Prior Lake are among communities considering similar action. Stillwater has had a one-year moratorium in place since November 2021, when legalization of recreational marijuana was being discussed.
“Cities are nimble and working quickly to review and respond to the new law and evaluate the unique needs of their communities,” said League of Minnesota Cities General Counsel Patricia Beety in a statement. “City leaders bring considerable expertise in regulatory considerations to the table, and League staff will be listening to the policymakers in our city halls to help shape the path forward in a way that is thoughtful and timely.”
Beety added that League, city staff members and state lawmakers are working to develop more understanding of THC sales issues, and hope to provide more guidance in the weeks ahead. The League will work with Rep. Heather Edelson (DFL- Edina). Edelson authorized the THC bill that was included in the larger health and human services omnibus bill.
Edelson released a statement saying she will seek state-level licensing and other changes during the 2023 legislative session.
Under state law, products must be derived from certified hemp and not marijuana, which is illegal in Minnesota. Hemp contains very small amounts of THC.
The new law doesn’t restrict who can manufacture or sell THC products. There currently are no restrictions stating where THC edibles and beverages can be sold. The law also has no limit on how much product someone can buy.
Brown, who worked on the new law, would like to see additional restrictions. One limit is on places where THC products could be sold.
“I don’t think we want products sold in grocery stores,” he said. Brown suggests sales in places restricted to patrons aged 21 and older, with additional protections on online sales to verify ages of buyers.
Another suggestion he has is that places that manufacture products with THC go through the same code inspections other food and beverage manufacturers must follow.