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Minnesota Cannabis Regulators Take Action to Address Legal Gap in Hemp Sales

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Minnesota's cannabis regulatory authorities are actively working to address a legal loophole that allows some hemp retailers to potentially sell marijuana flower without facing consequences. Charlene Briner, the interim director of the newly established Office of Cannabis Management, revealed on Thursday that a plan is underway to inspect and test raw cannabis flower temporarily, ensuring compliance with existing state laws.

Briner is collaborating with other agencies, including the Office of Medical Cannabis and the Department of Agriculture, to implement this temporary inspection process. The goal is to prevent the sale of cannabis flower that masquerades as legal hemp but is, in fact, illegal marijuana. The Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) aims to utilize existing enforcement capacity and explore ways to test raw cannabis flower effectively.

OCM is currently evaluating how to leverage inspectors from the Office of Medical Cannabis to act on its behalf and develop the capacity to test raw cannabis flower. Further details on these plans will be shared as they are put into action, according to Briner.

To be legally sold at present, hemp flower must contain 0.3 percent delta-9 THC or less. Hemp plants within this limit do not produce intoxicating effects when consumed. However, processing hemp for edibles and beverages can enhance THC content, leading to potential intoxication.

The loophole in the law gained public attention last year when former Office of Medical Cannabis director Chris Tholkes discussed it on the national podcast Weed Wonks. The issue arises from the fact that the law doesn't grant the Office of Medical Cannabis authority over unprocessed flower.

A meeting held on Thursday between state regulators and representatives of associations for county sheriffs and local police chiefs addressed this legal gap. The discussion focused on the civil regulation of recreational marijuana envisioned by the new cannabis law and the role of law enforcement in addressing major crimes like illegal cannabis trafficking.

Briner described the meeting as productive, leading to ongoing communication between state regulators and local law enforcement as they navigate the complexities of the law's implementation during the transitional period. The interim period between the legalization of possession and growth of small amounts of marijuana on August 1 and the anticipated retail sales, contingent on rule drafting and licensing issuance by the cannabis management office, is expected to last for another 15 months.

This development was first reported by MinnPost.