Feb 1, 2023 - News

Minnesota marijuana bill would give buyers plenty of options

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Minnesotans 21 and older would be able to buy marijuana-infused products at breweries, liquor stores, supermarkets and through home delivery services under the recreational cannabis bill moving through the State Capitol.

Why it matters: Supporters say the move, which preserves the state's booming THC seltzer industry, could create a bigger and more accessible market for consumers and business owners.

Zoom out: Karmen Hanson, a senior policy fellow who tracks marijuana policy at the National Conference of State Legislatures, told Axios she's unaware of any other states authorizing marijuana edible sales at grocery stores or bars.

Yes, but: Food and beverages that can get you high became widely available — and largely unregulated — in Minnesota after lawmakers legalized hemp-derived edibles with up to five milligrams of THC last year.

  • Infused drinks — currently available at breweries, restaurants, coffee shops and many retailers that don't sell liquor — have proven especially popular.

Details: The bill introduced this session preserves and expands that market by creating multiple types of licenses that would be issued by a new Office of Cannabis Management.

  • Dispensary-like businesses could sell flower, or smokable cannabis, along with other cannabis products.
  • Lower-dose edibles, including gummies and seltzers, could be sold at a wider range of retailers that register with the state and agree to keep them behind the register. Unlike now, those products could be made from hemp or marijuana.
  • Liquor stores, currently prohibited from selling the lower dose THC products, would be eligible to do so under the new rules.

Plus: Businesses could offer on-site consumption of edibles (but not smoking or vaping). Multi-day cannabis events could feature sales, samples and space to smoke the product, with state and local approval.

  • Separate licenses would also be available for businesses providing home delivery.

What they're saying: Supporters argue the state's experience with low-dose edibles shows that the products can be sold safely and responsibly at a variety of retailers.

  • "It's not about being unable to put the genie back in the bottle," Leili Fatehi, campaign manager of the pro-legalization MN Is Ready campaign, told Axios. "We don't want to put the genie back in the bottle."

The other side: A spokesperson for the Minnesotans Against Marijuana Legalization coalition told Axios that lawmakers should "reconsider the lack of regulation on the edibles that were legalized last year" instead of expanding the market.

  • Local governments also testified in committee that they want the ability to ban or further regulate sales within their borders beyond what the bill already allows.

The intrigue: While the bill allows breweries to sell THC seltzers, current language meant to prevent cross-contamination in kitchens and production facilities would prohibit them from producing the beverages on site, Tarasek said.

  • Fatehi said sponsors are working in consultation with the breweries and state regulators to come up with a solution.

The big picture: Making "lower-potency" edibles available at everyday retailers would set Minnesota apart from the 21 other states with legal marijuana by allowing sales outside of more traditional dispensary-style businesses.

What's next: The draft legislation is working its way through policy committees in both chambers. Expect changes as part of that process.

What we're watching: DFL leaders support legalizing recreational marijuana and Gov. Tim Walz has said he’d sign a bill.

  • But it's to be seen whether the measure has the votes to pass the Senate, where Democrats have a one-vote majority.

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