The new edible cannabis law has taken some regulators and legislators by surprise in Minnesota

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A state law taking effect on Friday legalizing edibles containing certain amounts of the cannabis ingredient that gets people high appears to have caught some state regulators and lawmakers by surprise — revealing that some who signed the law might have not fully understood.

Minnesotans who are 21 or older can now purchase THC-fortified edibles and beverages containing no more than 5 milligrams per serving and 50 milligrams per container. Five milligrams is about half the standard dose in recreational marijuana products in other states.

The head of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, which will have the regulatory authority for the new hemp-derived cannabis products, said the legalization of THC-infused foods and beverages was not included in the original hemp industry reform bill that the board helped draft have.

“Some things were changed in the eleventh hour, most notably the 5 milligrams and 50 milligrams,” said Jill Phillips, executive director of the Pharmacy Committee. “But here we are. It has been passed and we will do our best to support it.”

The new Minnesota-based products must be sourced from legally certified hemp — which contains trace amounts of the psychoactive compound THC — rather than marijuana, which remains illegal. But THC produces the same effects whether it’s derived from hemp or marijuana, say industry experts.

Rep. Heather Edelson, an Edina Democrat who supported the legislation in the House of Representatives, dismissed Phillips’ claim that the bill was changed at “the eleventh hour.” Edelson said the milligram dosage language was added to the bill well before the end of the session, noting that the House of Representatives had held three committee hearings on the legislation.

“It was put there with full transparency,” Edelson said.

Emails exchanged in March between Edelson, staff at DFL House, and Cody Wiberg, former director of the Pharmacy Committee, suggest the board was aware of the decision to allow THC edibles containing up to 5 milligrams per serving to be included in the invoice.

“Changing THC limits is a political call, in my opinion,” Wiberg wrote in a March 22 email to Edelson and two associates. “A gummy bear with 5 mg THC can get some people high—kids and adults who haven’t used THC products a lot. But the board will not oppose this change.”

The new law came about in an effort to strengthen regulation of the market for hemp-derived products.

Hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) products were already legal in Minnesota as long as they contained less than 0.3% delta-9-THC, the primary intoxicant in marijuana. This legal threshold did not apply to delta-8 THC, an intoxicating cousin of delta-9. As a result, Delta-8 products were sold in various forms in the state and at dosages high enough to pose health risks, Edelson said.

The new law’s milligram requirements apply to any form of THC, restricting the Delta-8 market while legalizing the sale and purchase of traditional Delta-9 THC foods and beverages.

“Our goal was to bring some clarity and certainty to the marketplace for these products, and in doing so we essentially have a safe haven for the sale of edibles and beverages containing 0.3% THC and up to 5 milligrams.” created very close to what we would get in a legalized marketplace for these types of products,” said House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley.

Phillips said the legalization of THC edibles was not at the Pharmacy Board’s request. However, board staff did not object to the 5-milligram and 50-milligram limits because “products containing much higher amounts of delta-8 were sold due to ambiguities in applicable law,” Phillips said.

Republican Senator Michelle Benson of Ham Lake said she was disappointed that the Pharmacy Board didn’t see the full impact of the law sooner.

But Benson, who sat on the conference committee that approved the bill, dodged repeated questions about whether she understood the bill would legalize THC edibles in a text message exchange with the Star Tribune.

In a statement, Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller praised the new law for regulating the hemp-products industry and creating safeguards to keep it away from children.

Under the new law, CBD and THC products must be clearly labeled and only sold to people 21 and older. Food and beverages must also be in child-resistant and tamper-proof packaging, have clearly defined portion sizes, and be labeled “Keep this product out of the reach of children.”

However, Miller’s testimony did not say whether the Senate intended the law to allow new THC products.

Senator Jim Abeler, a Republican from Anoka who chairs the Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee, told the Star Tribune he didn’t know the new law would legalize edibles containing any type of THC before it was passed. He thought it would only regulate delta-8 THC products.

Abeler said the Legislature should consider reversing the law, but Winkler said Democrats have no interest in doing so. House Democrats support full legalization of recreational marijuana; Senate Republicans oppose it.

The law does not limit how many CBD and THC products can be purchased, or who can make or sell them. The Pharmacy Board released some guidance on Thursday to answer general questions about the law.

“Currently, there is no agency that licenses companies to manufacture or retail,” Phillips said.

The pharmacy board employs 23 people and doesn’t have the resources to review all new products, so it will rely on consumer complaints, Phillips said. The board also doesn’t have a lab to test hemp-derived THC products, but Phillips said it’s working on setting one up.

She urged the legislature to consider a state cannabis management agency to oversee all aspects of its use. The Pharmacy Board and Department of Agriculture currently share oversight of industrial hemp and hemp-derived products, while Minnesota’s medical marijuana program resides in the Department of Health.

Edelson acknowledged that the new law “opens the floodgates” for THC-infused products to hit the market. She said lawmakers will need to issue more specific rules when they next meet in the Capitol.

At the Nothing But Hemp store on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, a few dozen customers lined up outside the door on Friday, anxiously waiting to purchase THC-infused edibles.

While waiting, Dylan and Lindsey Crepps of St. Paul pondered whether the new law could result in full legalization of recreational marijuana in Minnesota.

“That’s the gate, right?” said Lindsey Crepps. “I mean, when you’re selling edibles, THC, Delta-9, you’re basically selling real flower. So what’s the difference, you know what I mean?”

“It’s kind of like baby steps towards something that’s probably going to happen sooner or later,” said Dylan Crepps. “It’s common anyway.”

Staff writer Katelyn Vue contributed to this story.

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