Stealth legalization of intoxicating edibles angers unprepared communities

The stealth passage in the legislative session of a measure legalizing so-called edibles and beverages laced with the intoxicating agent in marijuana supposedly even caught some lawmakers by surprise. To get it through under the radar without attracting undue scrutiny, the bill’s supporters simply left out the standard enforcement and other provisions essential to the regulation of intoxicants.

Yet the apparent public safety tradeoff involved in passing what’s viewed as paving the way for full legalization of marijuana doesn’t appear to phase the bill’s author, according to MinnPost.

…gaps in the bill that are becoming apparent as the law is implemented might have been identified with more hearings and debate. Prime sponsor, Rep. Heather Edelson, DFL-Edina, said the bill doesn’t include taxation of the newly legal products and lacks enough regulation and enforcement — items she said she would now like to remedy.

“I think if we’d put in licensing structures and fees and did all of that, it wouldn’t have passed,” she said. Regulation and enforcement might now be up to local governments.

Up to local governments like the southern Minnesota community of Fairmont. As word spread that intoxicating edibles could be sold legally as of July 1, local chemical dependency counselors expressed serious concerns to the Sentinel over the likely impact on health and safety.

The new law has raised concerns locally among the Martin County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition (MCSAP).

Coalition Director, Steph Johnson, said the main concern of the coalition is the availability of the substances and how easily young people across the county could have access them.

“That’s disappointing in itself, but one of the scariest parts is when you talk about edibles, people don’t understand it takes time for them to go through your system,” Johnson said.

While the new law restricts the sale of edibles to those over the age of 21, the lack of rules and oversight leaves the door wide open for abuse in the view of some authorities. They warn that parents in particular need to be on the alert.

Kim Bemis, founder and Executive Director of Gobi Support, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping middle and high school teens and families rethink their relationship with drugs and alcohol, said that there is a lot of confusion surrounding the bill and that the language seems to be “splash dashed.”

“If you’re a parent, you need to be careful about this because there are some side effects to using this that are detrimental to adolescents and developing brains,” Bemis said.

While it’s for Minnesotans 21 and older, like alcohol and cigarettes, there’s no telling whether or not consumers will be carded and no question as to whether products have the potential to be sold to those younger than the legal age.

The edibles law may have only been on the books for less than two weeks, but there’s already talk of revisiting it in the legislature next year. Proponents want to explore adding guardrails that would address the concerns of local authorities left to oversee the sales of edibles by default. But others have hinted at the possibility of rolling back the measure altogether.

Ken Winters, Director of the Center for Adolescent Substance Abuse Research and professor of Psychiatry at the University of Minnesota, encouraged those who are not inclined to like the direction of the bill to contact their local legislator to see what can be done in the next local legislative session to correct the component of the health omnibus bill.

“Without knowing a lot of details from specific policy makers… it seems to us so far that a lot of policy makers were not aware that they were signing off on a health bill that included legalizing THC Delta-9 for edibles,” Winters said.

He said that whatever can be turned back in legislative processes is worth talking to a local legislator about.