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City moves to put moratorium in place until THC edible zoning, licensing rules are in place

 

By John McLoone

A moratorium should be placed on sale of THC edibles in Hastings until there’s more clarity on action legalizing their sale by the Minnesota State Legislature.

That was the recommendation by both the city’s Public Safety Advisory Committee, comprised of citizens, and the city council’s Public Safety Committee.

The council was slated to vote Tuesday, Sept. 6 on a moratorium. The PSAC recommended a 12month moratorium, while the council committee recommendation was six months with extension of time if needed.

A resolution drafted for council approval took the sixmonth avenue, stating, “No business, person or entity may establish a new use or expand an existing use that includes or involves the sales, testing, manufacturing, or distribution of cannabis in any way, whether medical or recreational, or any products that contain intoxicating cannabinoids extracted from hemp (CBD) in any form, for a period of up to six (6) months from the effective date of this ordinance or until ordinances regulating such uses become effective or until the Council rescinds this Interim Ordinance, whichever occurs first.”

Many other area municipalities, including the City of Cottage Grove, have enacted similar moratoriums.

The city council discussed the THC edible issue and sent it for review to the PSAC.

“At the end of the 2022 legislative session, the state passed new laws surrounding the sale of cannabis/cannabinoid product, which went into effect July 1. The new law limits the sale of intoxicating CBD products to individuals aged 21 and older and implements regulations regarding the packaging of edible CDB products. However, the new law has resulted in questions about local regulatory authority, law enforcement and taxing,” City Administrator Dan Wietecha briefed the council. “On Aug. 1, the City Council referred the subject to the Public Safety Advisory Committee. PSAC met Aug. 18 and recommended a 12month interim ordinance to allow time for adequate study. The Public Safety Committee of City Council met Sept. 1. They discussed concerns about public safety, community impact and supporting local business. They recommended a six-EYENIQUE month interim ordinance, acknowledging it could be extended if further study were needed.”

At the Aug. 1 council meeting, there was much discussion on the issue, with council members divided on whether anything should be done, since the state has deemed the sale legal, to how the city could collect fees to license sale of the cannabinoid edibles and what affect it would have on law enforcement.

Historical perspective

City Attorney Korine Land provided information on the background of the legalization and what the city can do from this point forward.

In an Aug. 18 memorandum, she said that medical marijuana was legalized in the state in 2014, which allowed two instate manufacturers – Leafline Labs in Cottage Grove and Green Goods in Otsego – to produce the product.

“Each manufacturer must carry on all of its cultivation, harvesting, manufacturing, packaging and processing at one single location, in an enclosed, locked facility,” she said.

The medical product is tested to make sure it meets state law by independent testing labs in St. Paul or Maple Grove. She said there are 17 qualifying medical conditions that medical providers can prescribe medical marijuana, and there are currently 13 distribution sites in the state, including in Woodbury, Eagan, Burnsville, Bloomington, Blaine, St. Paul and Minneapolis in the metro area. The law was expanded this year to allow THC in not only liquid or pill form, but smoking and vapor inhalation as well. She said that patient enrollment for medical marijuana in Minnesota has grown from 837 in 2015 to 37,112 at present.

In 2019, the legislature allowed sale of products containing “nonintoxicating cannabinoids extracted from hemp,” she said.

“This law gave CBD businesses the launching point needed to open throughout the state, the first as part of smoke shops and then as standalone businesses,” according to Land. “Without local licensing or zoning, CBD product suddenly appeared as permitted uses in tobacco stores or general retail establishments on Minnesota’s main streets. Many stores began selling products that contain CBD with THC as an incidental part of their retail business.”

Lastminute legalization and issues

On the last day of the legislative session, the legislature passed new laws allowing the sale of edible cannabinoid products which contain less than five milligrams of THC in a single serving, or 50 milligrams per package.

“Some issues have arisen since the new law went into effect” according to Land. “Without going into every business in the city (retail, massage chiropractor), there is no way to know who is selling these products. There is also no reliable mechanism for testing edible CBD products for the levels of THC. Therefore, local law enforcement is forced to trust the packaging labels provided by the manufacturers.”

She recommended the city look at its ordinances to be ahead of the ball on the marijuana front, which could move quickly to allow for recreational use of THC, noting that the state is following a similar trajectory as California, Colorado and Washington.

“If this occurs, medical marijuana distribution sites and stores that sell CBD products could be converted into recreational marijuana stores immediately. Without any regulation at all, recreation sales of marijuana could be considered general retail uses and move into any storefront in any business district,” according to Land.

She recommended the city look at its zoning regulations “to appropriately place these types of uses in the right zoning district with public health, safety and welfare performance standards.”

The city can also license the product, similar to tobacco and liquor stores, which require applications and background checks. The licensing could also stipulate stores that could sell CBD products and set other requirements.

Land recommended putting a moratorium in place, a tool allowing a municipality to until the city can “study the impacts of certain uses and determine regulations appropriate for the purpose of protecting the public health, safety and welfare of their citizens.”

“In order to be proactive and thoughtful in considering the potential impact of these uses within the City, as well as the uncertainty surrounding any upcoming legislation, it is recommended that the City adopt an interim ordinance and undertake a study to consider where these types of uses should be located, how many of them should be allowed and whether or not licensing restrictions are appropriate. The interim ordinance may be in place for up to one year, however, it can be terminated at any time by the council and would automatically terminate with the adoption of any ordinances surrounding the regulations of these uses,” according to Land.

September 7, 2022