Writer: Joshua Andino
2 min read July 2022 — Minnesota accidentally legalized edible weed and it doesn’t look like the state will be reversing course anytime soon.
Since the 2013 decision by the Obama administration to not prosecute marijuana sales or stand in the way of state-led legalization initiatives, individual states have slowly put laws on the books legalizing or decriminalizing its use to varying degrees. The subsequent patchwork of regulation and legality has created a gray market for products that exist in a difficult to control environment. In an effort to rein in the propagation of certain cannabis products, such as Delta-8 THC, and an uptick in calls to poison control centers, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law that offered a wider legalization while implementing stricter consumer protections.
“Delta-8,” is chemically similar to the psychoactive agent in marijuana, Delta-9 THC. Delta-8, however, is derived from hemp plants, which were made legal in the 2018 Farm Bill and thus have greater legal leeway than THC derived from marijuana plants.
The Minnesota law, an amendment adopted unanimously by voice-vote at the end of the legislative session, was part of the Omnibus Health and Human Services Bill that passed earlier in May and came into effect at the start of this month. It limited the sale of cannabinoid products to 5 milligrams – encompassing all forms of THC.
Anoka Republican Sen. Jim Abeler half-joked: “That doesn’t legalize marijuana — we didn’t just do that.” His counterpart, Rochester Democrat Rep. Tina Liebling ribbed back, “Oh, are you kidding? Of course you have.”
In addition to the 5-milligram threshold, the law implemented restrictions on the sale and packaging of CBD and THC products. Products can only be sold to those 21 and older. Edibles must be in child-proof and tamper-evident packages and carry the label, “Keep this product out of reach of children.” The state’s Board of Pharmacy, while normally preoccupied with the licensing of pharmacies and pharmacists, is tasked with regulatingopens PDF file the potency, packaging and age requirements of the new THC products.
Edina-Democrat Rep. Heather Edelson sponsored the legislation in the House and said the law was an effort to strengthen oversight of the emerging market. That it allowed for a partial legalization was an added benefit to the increased protections. “There was no mystery about what we were doing here.” she said, reports the Star Tribune. Abeler, who chairs the Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee, said he thought the law was only a technical fix and that the legislature should consider rolling the law back. Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, called Abeler’s suggestion to roll back the law “ridiculous,” saying Democrats have no interest in doing so, reported the Star Tribune.
The Minnesota Legislature has long been divided along party lines. While Democrats have carried every statewide election since 2008, the GOP carried the state Senate in 2010, 2016 and 2020, and enjoyed House majorities in 2010, 2014 and 2016. All elected state offices are on the ballot in November, however, and both the Democrats and Republicans appreciate their chances – the Democrats to hold the governorship and Republicans to hold the Senate and flip the House, writes Dr. Eric Ostermeier, research fellow at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.
While it remains to be seen what the Republican response will be, the partial legalization will be tricky to reverse, with businesses and consumers alike taking full advantage to create new products and likewise buy them. Minnesotans are generally in favor of legalization, with a 2020 poll showing just over half – 51% – supporting legalization, with 37% opposed. Republicans have repeatedly shot down attempts to legalize it recreationally across the state.
While it may be too soon to tell whether legal weed will become an issue at the ballot box, Republicans have allegedly employed independent, pro-legalization candidates in Democrat-controlled districts to potentially siphon away votes.