Minnesota cracking down on illegal cannabis sales before adult-use launch

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Cannabis retailers in Minnesota selling product before the state officially launches legal adult-use marijuana sales risk getting a $1 million fine and jeopardizing their chances of getting MJ business licenses when they become available later.

That was the warning from Minnesota’s Office Cannabis Management (OCM) on Tuesday, when the agency announced that it will crack down on retailers who sell marijuana before state law allows, according to the Star Tribune of Minneapolis.

“Products for sale without a (lab-testing certificate) will constitute an illegal sale,” Charlene Briner, the OCM’s interim director, wrote in a March 7 memo.

Minnesota’s recreational cannabis market is expected to launch in early 2025.

The OCM is still working on creating a licensing system, and it won’t be until late this year or early 2025 before any permits are issued, the Star Tribune said.

According to the Star Tribune, the OCM has received complaints about retailers selling illegal marijuana that’s labeled as hemp, a practice common in other states that don’t have legal MJ markets. Under the 2018 U.S. Farm Bill, hemp is legal to sell if its THC level is below 0.3%.

Minnesota health officials now will begin inspecting raw flower to confirm that it’s hemp and not marijuana, the Star Tribune reported. State health inspectors are already watching hemp-derived edibles sales.

Retailers that sell raw flower in the state must provide a lab-testing certificate verifying the product’s THC levels, the Star Tribune reported.

“While this is a temporary issue that will no longer exist once businesses are licensed to sell cannabis flower, OCM’s commitment to ensuring an industry that abides by all legal requirements is steadfast and ongoing,” Briner said in a statement to the newspaper.

“We are confident that by providing clear expectations and guidance to businesses, the majority of operators will choose to follow the law.”

The state is also expanding its testing capacity for cannabis products, contracting with a lab and deploying a mobile field unit, the Star Tribune reported.