As Colorado, Washington and other states have proven, it is possible to legalize weed, make sure it's regulated to make sure the business is safe and orderly, and bring in plenty of new tax revenue. It is a very popular model right now, and if the legislation is thoughtfully written and introduced, weed legalization could also include reforms that address egregious disparities in racial provisions from the Prohibition era.
It is possible to do it like Minnesota just did: haphazardly and largely at the last minute, by tossing the legislation into a pile of amendments to a comprehensive health bill that must pass at the end of the legislative session in May. The law went into effect yesterday, allowing the sale of foods and drinks with up to 5 milligrams of THC, up to a maximum of 50 milligrams per package. THC must be derived from hemp, which is already legal in the state, not from marijuana plants, which are still illegal at the moment.
In summary, a Democratic lawmaker wanted to put in place some regulations to affect the pervasive gray market, a type of cannabis called Delta 8. To achieve this, they wrote legislation that also legalizes and regulates THC, the active ingredient in weed and your by-products.
As J. Patrick Cullikan explains in his article in the Minnesota Reformer, state Representative Heather Edelson first set out to work with the state's Board of Pharmacy and Agriculture to do something about the spread of Delta-8, which is made with cannabidiol (CBD) derived from hemp. Both hemp and CBD are legal in Minnesota. The problem is that Delta 8 products are starting to pop up everywhere, in all kinds of concentrations, because it is an "unregulated product".
Edelson met with Republican Senator Mark Curran, and they wrote regulations for the sale of cannabis-derived weed, which includes delta-8 and delta-9, THC. The same thing was anticipated to happen in states that are actually planning to legalize cannabis.
The Republican senators are constantly blocking any efforts to legalize the drug while not realizing that was what they were voting to do.
As you can see in this video, right after the amendment passed on a unanimous vote, state senator Jim Abeler seemed taken aback as he uttered "That doesn't legalize marijuana — we just didn't do that, did we ?"
His co-chair, Representative Tina Liebling of Rochester, replied, "Oh, are you kidding? Of course you have. No, just kidding. Next, we'll do that then, okay? ”
Except she wasn't kidding. This accident was a step towards the legalization of marijuana, although it did not go through all the bureaucratic procedures and formalities.
As the Star Tribune explains, Abeler thought that the new legislation would only be reigning in the Delta 8 market while also allowing the buying and selling of traditional THC foods and drinks.
As of Friday, CBD and THC products in Minnesota must be clearly labeled “Keep this product out of reach of children” and sold only to those 21 or older. Food must be in childproof and tamper-proof packaging and have clearly defined serving sizes and carry the label.
Edelson told the Star Tribune that her goal is to improve "consumer protection," but she also acknowledged that this is a partial opening of the weed legalization process. "There was no ambiguity about what we were doing here."
Perhaps there was some ambiguity, as State Senator Abeler told the Star Tribune that they had the impression that they were only putting regulations on Delta 8 products.
“I thought we were doing a technical reform, and it ended up with a broader impact than I expected,” Abeler said, adding that the legislature should consider rolling back the new law.
It's unlikely Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and the Democratic-controlled state assembly would go for it, with their public support for de facto legalization of weed. The House passed a bipartisan bill to legalize recreational marijuana in 2021, but it was killed off in the Senate.
Structured legalization is seen as a really good idea for the next legislative session, given the huge loopholes in the legislation that has already been passed. There is no regulation as to who can sell new legal THC products, nor is there even a license to apply for. The state pharmacy board would be responsible for regulating it, although the agency wasn't ready for the new responsibilities.
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