Minnesota’s edibles industry booms after legalization

In May, we celebrated when Gov. Tim Walz signed a bill to reform Minnesota’s liquor laws. The so-called “Free the Growler” bill raised the annual cap on craft beer production from 20,000 barrels to 150,000 barrels, allowing some of the state’s biggest breweries to sell beer in to-go containers on-site, and let breweries sell beer on-site in smaller containers, meaning they can opt to sell cans in four-packs or six-packs instead of 32-ounce cans or growlers. For distilleries, the bill removed the state’s limit on cocktail rooms, allowing them to serve liquor on-site.

We supported this reform, arguing that:

Minnesota’s craft breweries and distilleries have been an entrepreneurial, economic success story. The laws holding them back, touted as being in the public interest, are, in fact, only in the interests of rent-seeking middlemen trying to use the law to protect their market share. 

At the start of this month, Minnesota legalized sales of ‘edibles’ containing small amounts of hemp-derived tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Some said that Republicans had voted to legalize edibles because they hadn’t read the bill, others that it had been done stealthily.

I cannot comment either way on how edibles were legalized but something can be said about how sellers and consumers are reacting. The Duluth News Tribune reports:

Suppliers of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, are seeing a surge in the sales of hemp-derived edibles and beverages following Minnesota’s change in law…

Following the passing of the new bill, Sutherland said he is seeing a significant increase of demand for THC edible products at his stores, which he credits partially to a media-infused false hype. He estimated Sutherland CBD’s sales of THC edibles to be anywhere from double to triple the numbers experienced during this time last July.

“A lot of Minnesotans didn’t know you could buy THC gummies already and now everyone starts coming out of the woodwork,” Sutherland said. “We’re selling hundreds of thousands of gummies. We’re selling them as quickly as they come in.”

They are reacting, in other words, in the same way sellers and consumers of alcohol products reacted when the “Free the Growler” bill was passed.

No doubt there are concerns to be addressed consequent to this bill passing, just as there were when sales of alcohol were liberalized in May. These concerns might require further legislative action, but we should be careful to strike a balance. Consider the new rules in New Jersey which:

…limit how many events and private parties microbreweries can host a year, and they are only allowed to attend 12 off-premise events. Violation of the rules could result in fines or license suspension.

“These conditions are just so unfair,” said Chuck Garrity, who owns Death of the Fox Brewing Company in Clarksboro.

He said they aren’t allowed to serve any drinks, including soda, that aren’t manufactured on-site. They can’t serve food or coordinate with food trucks. Every new customer must get a brewery tour. And, the worst of all 18 rules, he said, is a maximum of 25 “special events” per year, as defined by the ABC.

“We are limited and have to get permission for and [give] 10 days advanced notice to the state of New Jersey if we plan to have any type of what they call an event,” he explained. That means a DJ, a band, trivia, a craft night — just about any activity other than a radio or TV playing in the background is considered an event.

All, no doubt, in the name of safety. Nevertheless, we at the Center would be in the vanguard of any fight against such infringements on liberty here.

The last couple of years have pushed to the forefront of political discourse questions of individual freedom versus public safety and they have done so over the question of what substances do or don’t go into an individual’s body. The controversy over edibles is another manifestation of this old debate.