New THC law raises local concerns

FAIRMONT– Recently, a new state law passed in Minnesota that allows those 21 and older to purchase certain edibles and beverages containing the active ingredient in marijuana.

The law allows the sale and purchase of edibles and beverages that contain up to 5 milligrams of THC per serving. However, the law does not place a limit on how many CBD and THC products can be purchased and does not regulate who can sell them.

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.

She said people may try one and not feel anything so they take more and by the time they realize they’re feeling the effects, they could have gone too far.

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.

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 bill did not include resources for the state’s board of pharmacy to ensure that the products meet the regulations in the bill,” Winters said.

He said this creates a slippery slope. Bemis added that it’s not clear whether the products must be made with in-state Minnesota CBD and hemp or whether the products can be imported and who is regulating them.

“The FDA has warned that some of these processes can be extremely harmful to people who use them because there’s harsh chemicals being used to extract Delta-8,” Bemis said.

Bemis said he’s heard people make remarks that ‘it’s just a weed, it’s perfectly safe.’

“The problem is, this has now become a genetically modified highly cultivated drug… it’s not just a plant anymore,” Bemis said.

He said a large part of the problem is that people don’t understand the complexity of the cannabis plant, THC, the intensity of it and what happens when you smoke it or put it into an edible.

Bemis said that while the Minnesota law allows for 5 milligrams, whereas most states allow for 20 or 25, a lot of people don’t just stop eating one dose.

Winters said he’s spoken to school counselors in Minnesota who have said edible gummies are becoming popular and youth will claim it’s just candy so they’ll eat more than what’s recommended.

“Pretty soon they’re having paranoia or hyperemesis (severe or prolonged vomiting),” Winters said.

He said many schools aren’t prepared to handle the various overdose reactions.

There’s also the concern of youth even younger than high-school aged getting into substances and not understanding what they are. Winters said while the law says it can’t be packaged to look like a kid product and can’t be made into worms or bears, that doesn’t mean it won’t look appealing to children.

“A good conversation our coalition will have is ways to talk to our kids about the dangers of this. Instead of using “recreational use” I think “adult use” will help younger people realize this is for adults 21 and older,” Johnson said.

As a coalition, Johnson said they’ll continue to focus on positive community norms and that not everyone is doing it, because if youth think everyone is doing it, they’ll be more tempted to engage as well.

“We’ll continue to educate parents and community members on how to prevent with the young people around them,” Johnson said.

She also encouraged that people talk to their local legislators because that’s the best way for them to hear what the concerns are.

“There are local strategies we can do to make a difference to help our environment be safe,” Johnson said.


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