A number of Minnesota cities are temporarily banning THC edibles after a new law went into effect at the beginning of the month.
Within the last week, St. Joseph in central Minnesota and Marshall in western Minnesota approved moratoriums that halt the manufacturing and sales of hemp-derived edibles. Stillwater officials implemented a one-year moratorium last November — long before lawmakers crafted the new law — as a way to try to be ahead of the state when it legalized recreational marijuana. And two other cities — Waite Park and Prior Lake — also are considering moratoriums.
"We're not saying, 'We hate weed,'" said Ted Kozlowski, Stillwater mayor. "We're just trying to be smart about it."
The temporary prohibitions are meant to give city staff time to research the issue and draft ordinances that regulate manufacturing and sales of edibles. The new law allows Minnesotans 21 and older to buy edibles and beverages containing small amounts of THC, the marijuana plant's main psychoactive ingredient.
"It quite honestly caught a lot of us off guard," said Dave Bentrud, Waite Park police chief. "We really didn't see it coming or have input on anything before it came along."
On Monday, Waite Park City Council considered approving a moratorium but instead decided to table the discussion to wait and see how other St. Cloud-area cities are handling regulations.
"I do believe totally that this is an — I'm going to use my own words — evil that's going to come," said Rick Miller, Waite Park mayor, about recreational marijuana. "But I also believe that I think this is a perfect example of where the six cities should get together, and, if they do an ordinance, they should all be mirrored."
St. Joseph Mayor Rick Schultz told city staff Monday that he doesn't want to ban products for an entire year, only until city staff can meet with neighboring cities and draft an ordinance that works for the St. Cloud region.
Therese Haffner, city administrator for St. Joseph, said she anticipates it will only take a few months to present a draft ordinance to the council but she wants to get it right the first time.
"The state passed this without really taking a good strong look at it so I think we're going to see changes from the state, as well," Haffner said. "If we rush to adopt an ordinance right now, we might be then amending it four times over before one year is up."
Several St. Cloud area city councils are slated to meet July 25. St. Cloud Mayor Dave Kleis said the city is not considering a moratorium on THC products but is working with the League of Minnesota Cities to draft an ordinance regulating sales, similar to its ordinance on tobacco products.
This month, staff at the league, a membership association serving more than 800 cities with advocacy and policy development, have been working feverishly with state agencies to research the law and help cities regulate the new products.
The law dictates several regulations, including requirements that products cannot resemble commercial food products or be modeled after brands primarily marketed to children. Edible products cannot exceed 5 mg of THC in a single serving or more than 50 mg per package.
"Some of the things we initially [heard] was that this is the Wild West or a free-for-all or something like that — that's not the case," said Pat Beety, general counsel at the league. "We have a state statute that does have some parameters and some good things in it."
According to the league, cities are able to regulate where edibles can be manufactured or sold, the age of the person selling the products, where products can be located within a retail establishment, whether pop-up sales are allowed and whether there is a minimum distance between retailers and schools, parks and residential areas.
The Marshall City Council implemented a year-long moratorium on the sale of THC products using an emergency ordinance. In Stillwater, which still is under the one-year moratorium passed in November, officials are planning to vote on a new ordinance in the next month or two.
Prior Lake City Council members on Monday directed staff to draft a one-year moratorium on THC products, with plans to vote on the moratorium on Aug. 1, according to Prior Lake Mayor Kirt Briggs.
The Prior Lake City Council previously voted to prohibit the sale of flavored vapes, with the exception of tobacco and menthol. Briggs said it would be up to the council to decide whether it wants to consider banning the sale of TCH products.
The league's guidance says the state law is unclear about whether a city can completely prohibit the sale of edible cannabinoids, but adds a city possibly could propose a ban under its authority to provide for the health and welfare of its community — the same reasoning used when banning flavored tobacco products.
"I appreciate that this statute does give local voice," Briggs said. "The availability of these products should be left up to the cities."