Minnesota health department warns of illegal high-dose edibles

Minnesota health department warns of illegal high-dose edibles

Nearly 40% of the THC edible retailers inspected by the state since August had illegal high-dose products for sale, per the Minnesota Department of Health.

Why it matters: The findings, which MDH said were part of a targeted effort to "remove high-risk products," underscore the challenge regulators face to rein in what's been called a "Wild West" of hemp-derived edible sales.

Threat level: Some goods spotted by regulators contained hundreds of milligrams of THC per serving — well above the state's 5mg limit.

  • State health officials warn that consuming such products can lead to adverse health effects, including unresponsiveness, seizures, or psychotic episodes.

Context: A 2022 law quietly legalized food and beverages containing 5mg or less of hemp-derived THC, but it lacked ample resources for oversight and enforcement.

  • Lawmakers tried to fix that this year by moving enforcement from the Board of Pharmacy to MDH's Office of Medical Cannabis and adding additional rules and registration requirements.

What's happening: The Office of Medical Cannabis, which is tasked for now with regulating the edibles market, added its first full-time inspector in August, more than a year after lawmakers legalized them.

  • It now has five inspectors in the field, with a sixth scheduled to start in January, a spokesperson said. Inspectors had visited 167 establishments as of last week.
  • Businesses that sell illegal products, or fail to register with the state, can face fines of up to $10,000 per incident.

But, but, but: No fines have been issued to date.

  • MDH spokesperson Garry Bowman said the agency is currently "working to educate retailers about these illegal products, which are being destroyed or embargoed when found."

Be smart: The inspections are only reaching a tiny sample of low-dose THC retailers.

  • Since the end of the summer, at least 3,000 establishments have registered to sell the products, but most industry experts think that figure vastly underestimates the market.

What we're hearing: Leili Fatehi, a legal cannabis advocate who helped craft the new law, said the top-line numbers from MDH aren't surprising, but she'd like to know more about what kind of businesses were inspected and why.

  • "A lot of the local cannabis businesses themselves are concerned about it," Fatehi, who now runs cannabis consulting firm Blunt Strategies, said of retailers selling non-compliant products.


Between the lines: Fatehi, who has herself seen such products on the shelves, said while some may knowingly be selling high-dose edibles from out-of-state to "make a quick buck," more outreach is needed to make sure those with good intentions know the rules.

  • Educating retailers and distributors about what's legal — and taking action against those breaking the law — is crucial for both consumer safety and the "overall integrity of the industry," she said.

What we're watching: Beyond ramping up training, Fatehi said that a top priority should be closing a loophole that's allowing hemp retailers to sell "raw flower" without regulatory oversight more than a year before legal marijuana sales begin.

  • "Somebody needs to figure out enforcement."
  • "It fundamentally undermines the entire purpose of having a regulated adult use market."

What's next: Licenses and regulation for low-dose THC producers and sellers will eventually be handled by the state's new Office of Cannabis Management, which is still looking for a leader.

  • The state also needs a new medical cannabis director following the departure of veteran regulator Chris Tholkes.

The bottom line: MDH urges consumers to check labels before they buy or consume THC products.

  • Complaints about items that exceed state limits can be filed online.

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Region: Minnesota

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