Minnesotans who are 21 or older can start buying edibles and beverages that contain THC — the ingredient in cannabis that gets you high — under a new state law that takes effect Friday.
The new law permits the sale and purchase of edibles and beverages that contain up to 5 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per serving and 50 milligrams per package. A 5-milligram THC edible can cause a high feeling for first-time users, while people who are used to cannabis could require a larger dose to feel the effect.
Five milligrams is about half the standard dose found in recreational marijuana products in other states.
New THC products must be derived from legally certified hemp, which contains trace amounts of the psychoactive compound, according to the law. But THC will produce the same effect whether it's derived from hemp or marijuana, industry experts say.
"This stuff will get you high, no doubt about it," said attorney Jason Tarasek, founder of the Minnesota Cannabis Law firm and a board member of the Minnesota Cannabis Association. "Everybody's calling it hemp-derived THC, which makes it sound like something other than marijuana. But I went on social media and I called it adult-use marijuana, because that's what most people are going to consider this to be."
Cannabis advocates say they can hardly believe the law passed the Minnesota Legislature given Senate Republicans' opposition to recreational marijuana legalization. Steven Brown, CEO of Nothing But Hemp, said he will begin selling a dozen new THC products Friday at his six Minnesota retail stores, with a few dozen more rolling out over the next month.
"In some ways, we legalized cannabis," Brown said.
Rep. Heather Edelson, an Edina Democrat who sponsored the legislation in the House, said the new law was born from an effort to strengthen oversight of the emerging market.
Hemp and cannabidiol (CBD) products were already legal in Minnesota provided they contained less than 0.3% delta-9 THC, the primary intoxicant in marijuana. But that legal threshold did not apply to delta-8 THC, an intoxicating cousin of delta-9. As a result, delta-8 products were widely sold in the state in various forms and at dosages high enough to pose health risks.
The new law's milligram requirements apply to any form of THC, reining in the delta-8 market while also allowing the sale and purchase of traditional THC edibles and beverages.
Starting Friday, CBD and THC products must be clearly labeled and sold only to those 21 or older. Edibles must be in child-proof and tamper-evident packages, have clearly defined serving sizes and carry the label, "Keep this product out of reach of children."
"Bringing more consumer protections really was my goal," Edelson said, though she admitted the new law gives Minnesota a sample of recreational marijuana legalization: "There was no mystery about what we were doing here."
It's unclear if leaders of the Republican-controlled Minnesota Senate fully realized the law would legalize delta-9 THC edibles before they agreed to pass it. Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, said she knew it would but "did not discuss that specifically" with Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeremy Miller, R-Winona.
Benson, chair of the Senate Human Services Licensing Policy Committee, said she and some other lawmakers were interested in capping dosages of delta-8 THC, which existed in an unregulated gray area. But to regulate any type of THC, as the new law does, "you have to pick an amount to measure by," she said.
Miller declined to comment, deferring to Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch, who authored a Senate version of Edelson's bill that did not explicitly allow milligram dosages.
"With the federal changes in 2018, the [Minnesota] Board of Pharmacy and Department of Agriculture recognized the need for regulations on certain products and worked with the Legislature to restrict the market," Koran said in a statement. "That's what this bill does."
Sen. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, who chairs the Senate Human Services Reform Finance and Policy Committee, said he didn't realize the new law would legalize edibles containing delta-9 THC before it passed. He thought the law would only regulate delta-8 THC products.
"I thought we were doing a technical fix, and it winded up having a broader impact than I expected," Abeler said, adding that the Legislature should consider rolling the new law back.
House Democrats and Gov. Tim Walz, both of whom support recreational marijuana legalization, are unlikely to agree to such a request. Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, called Abeler's suggestion to roll back the law "ridiculous" and said Democrats have no interest in doing so.
Abeler "voted for it. He signed the conference report," Winkler said. "This is a step forward towards a policy we strongly support."
The law places no limit on how many CBD and THC products can be purchased and does not regulate who can sell them. It also allows the cannabis components to be infused into food and drinks.
Brown is already working with breweries to create nonalcoholic THC beers and seltzers that he will sell in his stores. He said he wants to "promote cannabis over alcohol" to Minnesotans.
Superior Cannabis Co., which has stores in Duluth; Austin, Minn.; and Superior, Wis., will soon begin selling THC gummies, president and co-owner Jeff Brinkman said. Coffee shops and bars have already begun reaching out to him about selling CBD products, he said.
"This is really exciting for us," Brinkman said. "It's a really good opportunity to demonstrate to legislators [that] legalization is just one step away."
Tarasek said Minnesota's new law is a "cannabis industry oddity." He's already fielding calls from cannabis companies nationwide that now see Minnesota as a "quasi-legal market."
"I'm getting calls from across the country saying, 'What is this? We've never seen this,' " Tarasek said. "They want to jump in."