MINNEAPOLIS -- There are high expectations ahead as a new law will soon take effect that for the first time regulates the use of cannabinoids in food and beverages in Minnesota.
"Before, one department said this was fine, another department said don't put this in a food product - but it's not a food, it's a supplement," Mason Alt, owner of Retro Bakery in Columbia Heights, told WCCO. "There was this gray zone, and if you talked to any lawyer you get different answers."
Alt said part of the ambiguity dates back to 2018 when Congress first legalized industrial hemp, defined as a cannabis plant with less than 0.3% THC, the ingredient that at a higher percentage could make someone high. Minnesota followed suit in 2019, but several businesses started selling drinks and snacks before getting cease and desist letters from the Department of Agriculture.
The new law now governs the packaging, the sale and the makeup of the products, which may not contain more than 5 mg of THC per serving, and no more than 50 mg per package.
"Five milligrams is what you would get out in Colorado, so that's super exciting," Alt added. "This is an alternative that's natural and gives you a feeling you want to feel, and instead of drinking a beer every hour, you take an edible and you're good for six to eight hour. And as long as you're sticking to that 5mg, you won't have that 'too much' feeling."
The use of industrial hemp in the U.S. has exploded over the past decade; a government report valued the industry at $824 million in 2021. In Minnesota, moreover, farmers planted 2,650 acres of hemp - fifth most among U.S. states.
"This is an industry where the science and the products can move a lot faster than regulations and statutes," Carol Moss, a business attorney who works with cannabis companies, explained to WCCO. "People in this industry common sense regulation because the vast majority of businesses want to do things right."
According to Moss, the law should not be seen by critics as a prelude to full legalization of marijuana.
"Before this law was passed, these products were consumed and sold in Minnesota already and many from out of state businesses. This will now provide guidance from Board of Pharmacy to enforce these consumer protections. A lot of these products could be marketed towards children. Without regulations, and enforcement, there's nothing from keeping these products from them."
Moss said the regulations on labeling and testing also help ensure product safety when "bad actors" could instead use synthetic materials
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