Did Minnesota accidentally legalize weed?

Marijuana legalization has been a divisive issue in the Minnesota Legislature for years. The Democratic-controlled House passed legislation last year that would allow anyone 21 or older to legally buy and possess the drug, but the GOP-controlled Senate has remained staunchly opposed to legalization. recreational. Yet a The legalization provision passed at a marathon meeting of the conference committee in May without debate or objection.

« That doesn’t legalize marijuana? » Sen. Jim Abeler, Republican Chairman of the Senate Finance and Human Services Reform Policy Committee, asked after it passed by voice vote. « We didn’t just do that? »

Democratic Representative Tina Liebling took the opportunity to direct her GOP counterpart: “Are you kidding? Of course you have.

Liebling was quick to clarify that the confusing provision would not actually legalize weed in the state. « We’ll do that next, » she joked.

Abeler referred questions to a Senate GOP spokesperson who did not respond to a request for comment.

However, he told the Minneapolis-based Star Tribune that he believed the provision would only legalize Delta-8 THC products, which were already widely sold in Minnesota, and not Delta-9 THC products which remain illegal. at the federal level. Delta-8 products occupy an unclear legal status under federal law because they are derived from hemp with less than 0.3% THC, which was legalized by Congress under the 2018 Farm Bill.

« I thought we were doing a technical fix, and it ended up having a wider impact than expected, » Abeler told the newspaper.

Creation of railings

All of this underscores the confusion around how the state ultimately eased its restrictions on cannabis.

Democrats say they were fully aware of what the hemp legislation would do. They point out that the bill went through three committee hearings in the Democratic-controlled House. Additionally, they claim this is a much-needed public health improvement, given that there were already Delta-8 intoxicating products being sold across the state without any rules or regulatory oversight. These products have proliferated across the country over the past two years, particularly flourishing in states that still have strict restrictions on marijuana use.

“The substances were sold everywhere anyway,” Liebling said in an interview. « My main interest…was putting railings around. »

Legalization advocates who worked on the bill back the claim that it was given extensive scrutiny before being released. added to a massive omnibus health care bill at the end of the legislative session.

« There wasn’t enough clarity in our laws to ensure the safety of consumers buying these products, » said Maren Schroeder, policy director of Sensible Change Minnesota, which supports marijuana legalization. « We’ve talked a lot about what’s intoxicating and what’s not, and we really need to quantify that somehow. »

But Senate Republicans are far less willing to discuss the bill and whether they realized it would poison cannabis products.

GOP Sense. Michelle Benson, who chairs the Senate Human Services Licensing Policy Committee, and Mark Koran, a key player on cannabis issues, also posed questions to the caucus spokesperson.

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, a Democrat who has championed the legalization of marijuana, said Abeler and other GOP lawmakers should have been fully aware of the ramifications of the hemp provision.

« He either wasn’t paying much attention or asking very good questions, or he knew and just didn’t want his fingerprints on it, » Winkler said in an interview. « I don’t know what is the case. »

Kevin Sabet, CEO of anti-legalization group Smart Approaches to Marijuana, called it an « embarrassing gaffe » for Minnesota.

« I don’t know if it was on purpose, but if it is, it’s very underhanded and probably unconstitutional, » he said in an email. “We will work to change this. We are already hearing reports from parents worried about children accidentally ingesting it.

‘Lines at the door’

Consumers seem to be excited about the new market for edibles and intoxicating beverages, and reversing the change would likely prove highly unpopular given the strong support for marijuana legalization both in Minnesota and across the country.

Shawn Weber, general manager of Crested River Cannabis Company in rural southwest Minnesota, said his company hasn’t seen a surge in retail sales since the law took effect, pointing out that they were already selling Delta-8 products that were more potent than allowed. under the new law. However, wholesale trade has recovered considerably.

« Other outlets literally sold out. They had queues at the door, » Weber said. our region knew that these products already existed.

Tom Whisenand, CEO of Minneapolis-based Indeed Brewing Company, points out that his company previously produced a non-intoxicating seltzer called Lull with 10 milligrams of CBD. However, it stopped production last year after being told by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture that the product was illegal.

« We knew then that we were kind of in a gray area with this drink, because CBD wasn’t explicitly legal in Minnesota, » Whisenand said. « But there were tons of products sold. »

The company now hopes to take advantage of the new law and bring a reformulated cannabis drink to market by August 1, this time with 2 milligrams of THC and CBD. Whisenand said Lull has been very popular and he expects there will be strong demand for the new product, called Two Good.

“We certainly have sufficient capacity to meet the initial demand forecast,” he said. « It depends on his popularity. »


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