Hemp-derived THC now allowed in food and drinks in Minnesota

·3 min read

Jul. 1—As of today, it will be legal to sell and buy food and drinks containing limited amounts of THC, as long as it comes from hemp.

THC is the chemical in cannabis that provides the "high" to people who use it. Hemp and marijuana both come from cannabis plants, but hemp is defined legally as cannabis that contains 0.3% or less of THC while marijuana has a higher level.

While the law change that kicks in today in Minnesota doesn't allow for the sale of any form of THC for vaping or smoking, some view the new state rules as a way to open the door for the eventual legalization of recreational marijuana in Minnesota.

But others aren't so sure.

THC started being sold in products in Minnesota in 2016 when the state allowed for the use of industrial hemp. The legality of selling THC was in question until a court ruling last year suggested products with any THC were illegal. The Legislature now clarified that THC products can be sold, but the state also limited THC levels in edible products to 5 milligrams per serving, or 50 milligrams in a package.

Russell Forst is licensed to grow hemp in Brown and Nicollet counties and last year grew some and began dabbling in processing it into balms and creams and other products often sold for pain relief.

"I didn't have a big quantity and didn't put it on the market but just wanted to experiment with it."

He also drew up business ideas for edible and drinkable THC products.

"I had some good business ideas to infuse coffee and make other things like that, but up until now, that wouldn't be viable." Forst said he's waiting to see if the new guidance from the state will allow for shops where coffee is infused with different THC blends or if the rules only apply to pre-packaged products.

"I'm excited about the law change. I have a full-time job now but I'd love to go full time with this," he said.

"I think hemp will find its niche here pretty soon."

Shawn Weber, owner of Crested River in Morgan, said he's not so sure the move was made to ease the state into legalizing recreational marijuana, but said the new rules should help provide some guidance and help weed out questionable players.

"I think it will help the industry. A lot of people now are operating out of their garage willy-nilly. This legislation should increase testing and quality, and there are some standards to fall back on."

Weber said 90% of the THC hemp products sold in the state are coming from California, Florida and other states.

He said some of those companies have been skirting the rules, and he hopes that having more clarity in state rules will help spur growth among Minnesota-based hemp processors and retailers.

Weber came from corporate America and got interested in hemp products, growing his first hemp crop in 2019 and then experimenting with making different hemp products.

"It started this as a hobby wholesaling CBD and it blossomed to where we did $850,000 last year and hope to break $1 million this year."

He does custom formulating for other growers, has a retail operation, wholesales and has a small grow operation.