Apparent loophole in Minnesota law could allow higher-potency hemp sales

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(This story has been updated with Monday’s announcement that Chris Tholkes is leaving the Office of Medical Cannabis.)

Minnesota’s newly passed adult-use marijuana law might have created a loophole that allows hemp cultivators to sell flower products that are more potent than the 0.3% THC limit.

That means hemp growers could gain a foothold in the market more than a year before the state plans to launch adult-use marijuana sales in early 2025, according to Minneapolis-based nonprofit online news outlet MinnPost, citing the podcast Weed Wonks.

Chris Tholkes, director of Minnesota’s Office of Medical Cannabis, told Weed Wonks that the department doesn’t have authority to inspect and regulate hemp flower, only processed products.

“Our regulatory authority is over hemp-derived cannabinoid products, and that is defined as extracted products,” said Tholkes, who is leaving her cannabis post on Friday for a role as operations director with the Minneapolis Health Department.

“It’s the edibles, the beverages, the topicals. It’s not flower.”

The newly formed Office of Cannabis Management doesn’t have any authority until adult-use marijuana retail licenses are awarded – which isn’t expected until March 2025.

Tholkes said it’s up to Minnesota law enforcement to ensure hemp producers aren’t selling products containing more than 0.3% THC, which is permissible under the 2018 Farm Bill.

But authorities are confused about what they can do under the laws, according to Tholkes.

“They know we have these hemp products, but they know that we are regulating the hemp products,” she said.

“So there is a little bit of confusion about what local law enforcement should be doing.”

Tholkes’ departure after five years at the helm of the Office of Medical Cannabis means the state now is looking for two marijuana regulators.

The Office of Cannabis Management is searching for a director after Erin DuPree resigned in September amid allegations that arose only days after she was appointed.