Hubbard County Board discusses licensing of THC products
Hubbard County Attorney Jonathan Frieden presented three options at the Tuesday, Sept. 13 board meeting.
Hubbard County commissioners are delving into how to handle legal sales of cannabinoid products and drug paraphernalia.
According to the new Minnesota law, edible food and beverage products, such as gummies, containing up to 5 milligrams of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per serving may be sold to people over the age of 21. Each package may only contain up to 50 milligrams of THC-edible products. Packaging may not be intended to entice children.
The law limits edible products to 0.3% THC in total, including chemically-derived THC products, like Delta-8 and Delta-9.
Minnesota’s new legislation went into effect on July 1.
Hubbard County Attorney Jonathan Frieden, also representing Hubbard In Prevention Coalition (HIP), said, “That is basically the law. Anyone can sell it, as long as they meet those conditions.” HIP is a nonprofit organization that strives to reduce alcohol, tobacco and other drug use in youth.
Frieden presented three options at the Sept. 13 board meeting: 1) Outright restrict the sale of any cannabinoid/THC product; 2) require a license for any retail establishment wishing to sell legal products; or 3) do nothing and wait for the state government.
Frieden pointed out that several cities – Nisswa, Robbinsdale, Waseca, St. Joseph and Marshall – have enacted moratoriums to temporarily ban the sale of these products while they weigh their options.
To his knowledge, Frieden said no neighboring counties have taken action, perhaps waiting for the Minnesota Legislature’s next move.
“I will say that the state is, based off my research and speaking with legislators, looking at putting together some sort of legislation for licensing and regulation within the next year. Whether or not that passes is a different question,” Frieden said.
Frieden returned to the county board with a draft county ordinance, updated since he originally shared it in March 2021.
The revised ordinance would require an annual license for any person, firm or corporation who owns a cannabinoid retail establishment.
Operating without a license would be a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail or to a payment of a fine of up to $1,000, or both.
Owners with more than a 5% interest in the business would be required to detail each gross misdemeanor or felony conviction they have received and whether they have operated in another city or county.
The county board could deny a license based upon “proximity to locations frequented by youth, including schools, churches, ice cream parlors and retail establishments selling candy,” among other considerations.
The allowable distance would be up to the county board, Frieden explained.
“So Walmart couldn’t sell it because they have candy at Walmart?” asked board chair Ted Van Kempen.
“It’s a good question. It is frequented by youth,” Frieden replied, reiterating that decision would be up to the county commissioners.
County commissioner Char Christenson asked if liquor stores’ locations are similarly restricted.
Frieden was unsure of the specific distance from schools and churches.
Van Kempen wondered if bars or restaurants that serve alcohol are limited in proximity.
“It’s not in our county or Minnesota that I’m aware of,” Frieden said.
The draft also would make it unlawful for “any person knowingly or intentionally to place in any newspaper, magazine, handbill or other publication any advertisement or promotion for the sale of drug paraphernalia or cannabinoid product.” A violation would be a misdemeanor.
Frieden explained that the draft ordinance has the county board setting the license fee and County Auditor Kay Rave would be the responsible licensing authority.
Christenson said she’d heard reports of dogs dying in Colorado after eating unregulated THC edibles off the ground.
Frieden said the Minnesota law “does not regulate what’s in the packaging. … I’m not in a position, and not to disparage the board, but I don’t believe the board is in a position to be scientists as to what should be in the packaging. The state does need to take action on that.”
County commissioner Tom Krueger said he learned at an Association of Minnesota Counties meeting that it takes three to five hours for someone to get stoned from an edible. “So someone eating an edible awhile back could get on the road several hours later and be under the influence.”
Frieden said he has heard reports countywide “regarding individuals utilizing edibles and not realizing the potency.”
Unlike the blood alcohol test or breathalyzer for alcohol, county commissioner David De La Hunt commented that the only measure for identifying a stoned driver is “subjective.” THC can stay in the bloodstream for months, he added. “That doesn’t mean you’re high.”
Frieden agreed, saying THC can be measured as inactive or active. “Even with active THC in someone’s system, I’ve seen reports where the individual was not showing signs of impairment and I’ve seen signs that they were very, very impaired. It is a difficult measurement, scientifically, and likely impossible, long term, to regulate that. The inactive is a different issue, where it’s in for 30 to 45 days and they’re not showing impairment at that point.”
Without a simple test, De La Hunt said the situation is very “convoluted” and difficult legally, “but I don’t think doing nothing is the answer.” He recommended treating these sales similarly to tobacco and alcohol, requiring annual licenses.
Van Kempen inquired whether gas stations, for example, would sell edibles from behind the counter, like cigarettes, rather than having a display where it would be an impulse buy.
Frieden said that wasn’t presently in the draft ordinance, but he was happy to add it. He urged county commissioners to offer their suggestions.
Board consensus was to continue discussion at an October or November work session.