This was going to be a landmark summer for Minnesota's medical marijuana clinics.
This was going to be the summer the state finally let them sell edibles.
Instead, Minnesota dispensaries are the one place you can't buy a gummy, snack or seltzer laced with small amounts of THC right now.
"People are going to be confused. They can get tested, precise products from our dispensaries," when medical cannabis edibles are legal on Aug. 1, said Dr. Kyle Kingsley, founder and CEO of Vireo Health, one of two companies sanctioned by the state to grow, refine and sell cannabis for medical use.
"Or they can get something from a gas station."
Welcome to Minnesota, home of the nation's most restrictive, least accessible, most expensive, least profitable medical marijuana program.
Now America's most confusing and least intoxicating source of recreational edibles.
The Indeed Brewing Co. in Minneapolis is preparing to debut a new cannabis-infused seltzer next month. Despite what happened the last time.
"We tiptoed into this space back in 2019," said Indeed CEO Tom Whisenand.
Ever since the 2018 Farm Bill added hemp to the list of legitimate American crops, businesses have rushed to find new uses for this useful little cannabis strain. Indeed brewed up Lull, a nonalcoholic seltzer infused with 5 milligrams of CBD, a nonintoxicating hemp extract.
"People really enjoyed it," Whisenand said. But CBD was a regulatory gray area in Minnesota, and when regulators looked at Lull, they didn't like what they saw.
"We stopped making it," Whisenand said, "because the state was very explicit in a letter to us, that it was not compliant with Minnesota law."
The same legal gray area has been hanging over Minnesota hemp farmers. When the state launched an industrial hemp pilot program, the state Department of Agriculture needed a waiver from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration before it could import hemp seeds.
"Regulatory uncertainty stifles innovation," said Dave Ladd, president of the Minnesota Industrial Hemp Association.
Despite the legal uncertainty, his members are building markets for their product — food, fibers, building materials, seltzer ingredients. Now they are studying the new state law and filling Ladd's e-mail with the same question, over and over: "What does this mean?"
At Indeed Brewing, it means Lull is coming back, along with a new seltzer offering — Two Good — a nonalcoholic seltzer with 2 milligrams of CBD and 2 milligrams of hemp-derived THC. It will be available in the taproom and in cans to go.
Federal law still classifies cannabis as a dangerous narcotic with no legitimate use, even though 37 states have medical marijuana programs and 19 – not including Minnesota — have legalized its recreational use.
Since the law changed faster than state regulations, the brewery has had to figure out on its own how and where it would serve the THC seltzer, how it would monitor patrons to make sure no one was over-served, and whether it needed extra insurance to cover this new venture.
The extra effort – and extra uncertainty – was worth it, Whisenand said. Young adults are drinking less beer these days. Indeed has responded by offering hard seltzer, hop water, hard kombucha, cannabis in a can.
"Having a positive beer experience isn't about getting drunk, or only drinking the hoppiest IPA there is," he said. "Indeed is looking forward. We're just trying to proceed cautiously and prudently."
Minnesota cannabis dispensaries are looking forward to Aug. 1, when they can begin offering edibles to patients who may have trouble tolerating other cannabis products.
"It will probably dramatically reduce — or reduce to some extent — our edible sales," said Kingsley, who is hoping the meticulous work his labs put into testing and developing the new lines of medical edibles will appeal to patients more than gas station gummies.