Several Minnesota cities are considering regulating THC-infused edibles and beverages locally, since the new state law legalizing them does not restrict who can manufacture or sell the products.
Officials from St. Paul, Stillwater, St. Louis Park, Edina, Golden Valley and Bloomington said Thursday they will begin studying the law and considering local regulations for the new cannabis products. Minneapolis officials also are mulling the issue, according to Rep. Heather Edelson, DFL-Edina, who authored the House bill legalizing edibles.
Edelson said she's working with the League of Minnesota Cities to develop guidance for communities considering regulations.
"The larger, densely populated cities are probably where we're going to see more people take quicker action on this," she said Thursday. "A lot of cities and towns ... might not do anything on it and operate under the current context of the law."
Under the new state law, Minnesotans 21 or older can buy edibles and beverages containing up to 5 milligrams of THC per serving and 50 milligrams per package. THC, short for tetrahydrocannabinol, is the ingredient in cannabis that gets people high.
The newly legal THC products must be derived from certified hemp — which contains trace amounts of the psychoactive compound — rather than marijuana, which remains illegal in Minnesota.
Edelson is encouraging cities to license who can sell the products and ensure shops are complying with the law's milligram and packaging requirements. THC products must be clearly labeled, sold only to those 21 or older and be in child-proof and tamper-evident packages. They must not resemble cartoon characters or animals or be modeled after brands primarily consumed by children.
The new law's requirements largely stop there. There are no restrictions stating where THC edibles and beverages can be sold and no limits on how much consumers can purchase.
House Democrats said they quietly pushed the bill legalizing THC-infused edibles through the Legislature earlier this year to give it a better chance of passing the Republican-controlled Senate, which opposes full recreational marijuana legalization. While their under-the-radar approach was successful, the result is a law with few restrictions.
City Council members in Golden Valley and St. Louis Park will discuss the issue during work sessions next week, officials said, and Edina City Manager Scott Neal said staffers there are drafting an ordinance to present to the City Council on July 19.
Neal said the Edina ordinance would require businesses that sell THC edibles and beverages to be licensed, similar to the city's tobacco-control ordinances. Sellers would have to apply for a license, pay a fee, undergo a background check and get approval from the City Council, he said. Licensed businesses would be tested for compliance throughout the year.
"I think we're going to be able to extend the current regulatory processes and systems that we use for tobacco over to this product pretty effectively," Neal said.
Stillwater Mayor Ted Kozlowski said city officials are working on an ordinance that would at minimum require THC products to be sold behind the counter and not on shelves. Consumers would have to show ID before purchasing.
Kozlowski said the city will seek to license who can sell THC products and limit how many of those businesses operate in the city, if state lawmakers do not add more restrictions.
"I just don't want to see our town being taken over by them," he said of shops selling THC products. "This should be managed by the state. The cities shouldn't be dictating licensing requirements."
Bloomington Mayor Tim Busse and Minnetonka City Council Member Bradley Schaeppi expressed similar frustrations. Busse said Bloomington will likely consider its own regulations soon but added that "it probably should have been handled in the legislation."
Schaeppi, who supports legalizing and taxing recreational marijuana, said the Legislature should not have left cities to fend for themselves. Minnetonka officials are working with the League of Minnesota Cities to understand the new law, he said.
"My overall observation from this legislation is it seemed to be approved by any means necessary, instead of 'Let's set up a proper regulatory and tax system like exists in other states to protect everyone, including children, that this will impact,' " Schaeppi said.
St. Paul Mayor Melvin Carter struck a more positive tone about the new law Thursday morning while touring the Nothing But Hemp store on Grand Avenue with Edelson and Rep. Kaohly Vang Her, DFL-St. Paul.
"I think it's an enormous opportunity for our state. This is clearly the direction that our country is headed," Carter said. "People in our communities want safe access to these products."
The mayor said he will seek input from those in the hemp and cannabis industry before drafting an ordinance regulating the products. He stressed that cities enacting regulations should collaborate so their policies are not "entirely different."
"There's an enormous amount to learn around this," Carter said. "Yes, there's urgency, and it'll take time to get it right."
Edelson said she is working on a bill for next year to provide licensing requirements at the state level. She also supports imposing a special tax on the products.
"What I'm really thinking about is who will be partners at the Capitol next year to make this bipartisan and not a political conversation," Edelson said. "The Legislature unfortunately has had not the best history about having conversations about cannabis policy."