NEW ULM– During a Tuesday work session, the City Council discussed how to deal with the surprise new law legalizing edible cannabis without direction on how to regulate its sale.
City Attorney Robert Scott explained the law allows the sales of foods or beverages infused with THC up to 0.3% or less. He said the law provides nothing about regulating where, how or what businesses could sell them, even if individuals could sell them.
City Manager Chris Dalton said the bill flew under the radar, leaving many Minnesota cities scrambling on what to do.
Police Chief David Borchert confirmed edible cannabis is a popular topic of discussion by state police departments, with the most significant issue being how to keep the products out of the hands of minors.
There are also complications on how to enforce other marijuana laws. Borchert said marijuana use is still illegal in Minnesota, but now if a person is caught with it, they can claim it is for an edible.
“It is complicating (enforcement), and there just wasn’t time to prepare for it,” he said.
Some cities put in place one-year moratoriums on the sale of edible cannabis to give them a chance to catch up with the new law.
Dalton confirmed at least one business in New Ulm, a smoke shop on the east side of town, is selling edible cannabis.
Scott confirmed there were regulations in place preventing edibles from being sold to anyone under 21. Tobacco products are usually sold behind the counter to minimize minors’ access to the product.
Scott said the consensus in Minnesota cities is to approach edible cannabis as a licensing problem. Many of the ordinances being approved across the state put licensing requirements on the product, similar to how tobacco is regulated.
Council President Andrea Boettger said her first thought was to parallel tobacco and vaping licensing and urged some form of registration.
Councilor Les Schultz had concerns that with current regulations a person over 21 could re-sell them to minors, so he favored a temporary moratorium.
Boettger stated she did not want to take something away from people that is legal to do.
Scott had concerns with a moratorium. He said they are more suited to land-use issues and do not work well for products. In theory, a moratorium would not stop any current edible cannabis seller from operating, only prevent new edible sellers.
Scott said a licensing approach was more defensible and easier to enforce. Most important is would let the city know who was selling it by forcing them to register.
Councilor Larry Mack asked if there was a way to limit the number of cannabis licenses sold in the city limits. Scott said, in general, the city could restrict the number of licenses.
Mack suggested the city limit the number of cannabis licenses similar to how the city limits the number of tobacco licenses.
Since the discussion was during a work session, no action could be taken. By consensus, the council recommended the city attorney draft an ordinance for an official meeting.