Watch CBS News

Minnesota regulators seize illegal raw cannabis flower, thousands of noncompliant THC products

Minnesota authorities cracking down on illegal cannabis sales
Minnesota authorities cracking down on illegal cannabis sales 01:49

MINNEAPOLIS  Minnesota businesses can't sell raw cannabis flower until the legal market launches next year. But some places are selling it anyway and inspectors are on notice, state regulators say. 

One hundred and twenty pounds of illegal cannabis flower was seized and destroyed at 91 retail locations, according to data from the Office of Cannabis Management as of June 14. The new agency tasked with regulatory oversight of marijuana and future businesses that will grow, manufacture and sell it, has received complaints that some stores were selling what amounted to high-potency marijuana under the label that it was hemp.

Thanks to legislation approved by Congress a few years ago, hemp became legal but only if it had no more than 0.3% THC — the psychoactive ingredient that can produce a high — on a dry weight basis. Anything more than that is considered weed, which is still a Schedule I controlled substance according to federal regulators. 

"We continue to see that in shops and when we do, we embargo it or pull it from the shelves and we educate operators about the fact that cannabis sales without a license is illegal until such time as the office is issuing licenses," said Charlene Briner, the interim director of the Office of Cannabis Management, in a recent interview.

In March, OCM announced it had partnered with the Minnesota Department of Health — which had jurisdiction over hemp-derived THC edibles when Minnesota lawmakers legalized those a few years ago — to inspect flower for sale to ensure it met the federal definition of hemp.

The office warned retailers who violated the law could face fines up to $1 million. This session, lawmakers updated the law to prohibit OCM from issuing forthcoming business licenses to operators who are selling illegal products.

Some hemp-derived drinks and edibles sold in some retail stores have also run afoul of the law. The products can have no more than five milligrams of THC per serving and 50 milligrams per package. For beverages, the serving size is the same but they can have no more than 10 milligrams per can to remain compliant. 

As of June 14, inspectors have pulled from store shelves more than 32,000 edibles with THC in excess of those limits, which together have an estimated retail value of $811,000.  

"[Inspectors] are doing targeted enforcement. They are also enforcing based on complaints. And that number continues to tick up in terms of products that we see that are either non-compliant hemp products or illegally sold cannabis," Briner said. 

Retailers in some cases have sold products with THC 100 times the legal dose. 

On July 1, all enforcement, including over the existing medical cannabis market and hemp-derived products, will transfer to the Office of Cannabis Management, according to a new law making some changes to the existing statute passed last year legalizing recreational marijuana.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.