The Legislature stumbles into legalizing THC, for better or worse | Column

  • July 20, 2022

In the final days of the legislative session in May, a bipartisan panel was negotiating the differences between health and human services bills passed by the DFL-led House and GOP-controlled Senate.

They had hundreds of pages to get through, and a bevy of amendments to approve, including one “exempting cannabinoids derived from hemp from Schedule 1 of the controlled substances schedule.”

Not in so many words: Legalizing weed.

After the amendment passed on a unanimous voice vote, here’s state Mon. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka: “That doesn’t legalize marijuana — we didn’t just do that.”

He chuckled.

His DFL co-chair, Rep. Tina Liebling of Rochester replied, “Oh, are you kidding? Of course you have. No, just kidding. We’ll do that next, OK?”

Well, actually, they did it.

As of Friday, July 1, 2022, products with THC — the chemical that gets you high — from “legally certified hemp” can now be manufactured, distributed and sold in Minnesota, in 5-mg increment edibles and drinks.

That’s enough to amp up an episode of “South Park” or deepen the groove at a Khruangbin concert.

If that exchange in the waning days of the session doesn’t sound like the most thoughtful legislation, you might be onto something.

I asked one of the bill’s chief architects, Rep. Heather Edelson, DFL-Edina, who would regulate this newly legal intoxicant. First she said it would be the state Department of Agriculture. She corrected herself in a text and said it would be the Board of Pharmacy.

Jill Phillips, the new executive director of the Board of Pharmacy, has been gifted with this new dung sandwich of responsibility, which is nothing like their current mission.

“We’re set up to regulate licensees,” she told me. Meaning: licensed pharmacists and pharmacies.

But the new THC law doesn’t even require a license

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