Cannabis: In Focus

  • Minnesota Legalizes Edibles Containing THC
  • Senators Ask Biden Administration to Pursue Cannabis Descheduling and Clemency
  • Cannabis Legalization Up to Midterm Election Voters in Several States

Minnesota Legalizes Edibles Containing THC

A Minnesota law went into effect on July 1, 2022, that may be the most significant step toward cannabis legalization in the state to date. The law, which was passed in June, legalized the sale of edible cannabis products that have five milligrams of hemp-derived tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) per serving, with a total package limit of 50 milligrams of THC.

Many states have similar laws in effect, but Minnesota’s law is different in that it places no restrictions on who can sell the edible cannabis products or where they are sold. The state has given the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy authority to regulate the sale and manufacture of edible cannabis products, but at this point no regulations have been made and there is no licensing requirement. This will likely change during the next Minnesota Legislative Session, which will begin next January.

As one of the most conservative states in the country when it comes to the legalization of cannabis, this development has come as a surprise to many—including to some of the legislators who passed the bill. When asked if he was aware that the bill contained this measure, Republican State Sen. Jim Abeler admitted that he had not realized the bill broadly legalized products containing THC, as opposed to delta-8 THC specifically.

The law does not specify particular types of THC, nor does it apply to topicals, tinctures, and items meant to be inhaled. It also appears that the bill’s sponsors accounted for many of the headline-making health concerns currently surrounding these products. The law provides specifics for labeling and restricts marketing that appeals to children through tamper-proof packaging and prohibition of copycat names of products typically consumed by children.

Senators Write to Biden Administration to Pursue Cannabis Descheduling and Clemency

Six Democratic senators wrote President Biden, Attorney General Merrick Garland, and Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra on July 6, 2022, calling upon the administration to pursue further cannabis descheduling and clemency. The letter was sent by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

The letter asks the administration officials to explore its existing authority under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) to begin the process of administratively descheduling cannabis from the CSA’s list of controlled substances. Specifically, the senators asked the attorney general and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) secretary to initiate the administrative process of descheduling, in recognition of the increasingly accepted evidence of medical benefits regarding cannabis.

The letter further requested that President Biden “pardon all individuals convicted of non-violent cannabis offenses, whether formerly or currently incarcerated.” This request follows up from an earlier letter sent by Sens. Warren and Markey as well as Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) from November 2021, in which the authors called for a blanket pardon. In the more recent July letter, the senators noted that “more has to be done to address the racist and harmful legacy of cannabis policies” on communities of color around the country.

Cannabis Legalization Up to Midterm Election Voters in Several States

Cannabis reform activists across the country have been working hard to get their initiatives on ballots this November. The coming midterm election could be the turning point for cannabis reform in many states and give millions of Americans the opportunity to possess cannabis safely and legally.

In Arkansas, advocates for adult-use cannabis have submitted a petition to the secretary of state with twice the number of signatures required to qualify for the ballot. The initiative would allow for recreational cannabis use for adults, in addition to 40 store licenses and 12 cultivation licenses. North Dakota activists exceeded the 15,582 minimum signature requirement by more than 10,000. Their proposal would allow those 21 and older to possess a maximum of one ounce of cannabis and permit adults to keep three plants for personal use. Oklahoma’s measure is similar, and in addition to permitting those 21 and older to possess one ounce of cannabis, adults may also keep six matured plants and six seedlings. The Oklahoma measure would also allow those previously or currently incarcerated for a cannabis related conviction to petition to have their record expunged.

Getting the requisite signatures has been more of a challenge for cannabis reform activists in Nebraska. Nebraska law requires 87,000 signatures for each measure, and after activists got 90,000 for each measure, they were hopeful. However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit overturned a lower court’s ruling that had prevented the state from enforcing a ballot requirement that signatures must come from a minimum of 5% of voters in at least 38 counties across the state. Activists have not given up and are still gathering signatures in the hope that the requirement is found to be unduly burdensome.