In this week’s cannabis news round-up, Minnesota legalizes adult use cannabis—including Delta-8 THC products; New York announces plans for cannabis farmers’ markets and medical cannabis could be on the cards for Iceland.
Minnesota Legalizes Adult Use Cannabis
The governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz, has signed into law a bill that allows the adult use of cannabis. This makes Minnesota the 23rd state in the country to end the plant’s prohibition.
After a long process of discussing and voting in committees, Governor Tim Walz signed the bill, known as HF 100, on Tuesday. Starting from August 1, Minnesota residents aged 21 and over can possess and grow cannabis at home without breaking the law. However, it will take about 12 to 18 months for the government to set up a retail system.
“This has been a long journey with a lot of folks involved,” Walz said. “What we know right now is prohibition doesn’t work. We’ve criminalized a lot of folks who are going to start the expungement process on those records. It’s going to take us a bit of time to get this up and going. We’ll be getting some people into the positions to be able to run this, but I assure Minnesotans that a lot of thought has gone into this. A lot of the things learned in other states are incorporated into how we do this and the thoughtfulness around this legislation gives us a good guiding principle.”
Democratic Rep. Zack Stephenson, the House sponsor, said that “while Minnesota might be the 23rd state to legalize cannabis, I think we’ve passed the best bill in the country that Minnesotans can be proud of. We’ve built a model that will work for Minnesota specifically and I think Minnesotans will be really pleased with the results of that work.”
Jesse Ventura, the former governor of Minnesota (and celebrity wrestler), who has been a strong advocate for the law change, attended the signing ceremony. He spoke passionately during the legislative hearings about his personal experience of illegally obtaining medical marijuana to treat his wife’s severe epilepsy.
“This was a huge day in our family’s life because prohibition will now end. It’s gone on longer than I’ve been alive, the prohibition of a plant made by God,” Ventura said. “We were always told everything was here for us to use. Now in Minnesota, we will be able to use this plant after years of prohibition. We didn’t want any families to go through what the first lady and I went through,” he said. “Now, today, they will never have to because prohibition will end today on cannabis.”
One interesting addition is that Minnesota will stand out as an exception by embracing hemp-derived cannabinoids, such as the debated Delta-8 THC, within the state’s legal cannabis industry. In contrast, 14 other states, including those with well-established cannabis markets that perceive hemp-derived products as a significant challenge, have either banned or implemented strict regulations on such products sourced from hemp.
Cannabis Farmers Markets Coming to New York
State regulators in New York announced plans to introduce cannabis farmers’ markets in the state, potentially within a month. During a virtual town hall meeting, John Kagia, the director of policy at the New York Office of Cannabis Management, shared details about the proposed model called the “New York Cannabis Growers Showcase.”
“The solution we’re working on right now … are what we’re calling the New York Cannabis Growers Showcase,” Kagia said.
The idea is to create a farmers’ market-like setup where licensed growers can come together and organize events in partnership with a retailer. A minimum of three growers and a retailer would collaborate to host these markets. However, there are a couple of requirements for setting up and running such markets. Firstly, the local town or city where the event is planned must approve it; secondly, a retailer must be involved to facilitate the actual sales.
One of the main motivations behind this initiative is to enable growers to sell their remaining inventory from last year’s harvest. Currently, there are only 13 operational retailers in the state, creating a significant bottleneck for approximately 200 farmers who cultivated outdoor cannabis in 2022. These farmers have been eagerly waiting to bring their products to the market.
According to Kagia, if growers have a farm or any other suitable location where they want to organize an event, the office will provide support. Additionally, they are open to the idea of collaborating with existing events such as concerts, festivals, or agricultural gatherings, allowing cannabis vendors to participate.
While an exact timeline for launching cannabis farmers markets remains uncertain, Damian Fagon, the Chief Equity Officer of the Office of Cannabis Management, expressed optimism about making the markets operational within a month after the meeting. He emphasized that the responsibility for organizing these markets will largely rest with the farmers themselves.
“A lot of this is going to be on you guys to organize, to self-organize,” Fagon said to the farmers. “A lot of what we want to do here is to create guidelines for this pilot and see what you do with it, let you run with it.”
Fagon reassured farmers that they can be confident about maintaining their current ability to ship their cannabis, even though it’s a temporary arrangement that’s set to expire on June 1. If the deadline is not extended, it could disrupt the entire cannabis supply chain in the state.
To address this concern, Fagon mentioned that Assembly Bill A7430 is anticipated to be passed by state lawmakers before the end of the month. This bill is crucial in resolving the issue. “It’s a must-pass bill,” he said. “That’s what’s been communicated.”
The proposed measure, sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, aims to extend the temporary distributor license expirations for farmers and processors by a full year, moving the deadline to June 1, 2024.
Proposed Pilot Project Could Legalize Medical Cannabis in Iceland
After a recent debate in the Alþingi (Icelandic parliament), officials have put forward a proposal for a four-year pilot project that would allow the use of medical cannabis, as well as the cultivation, production and distribution of cannabis-based medicinal products.
If the proposal is approved, the country’s Ministry of Health will collaborate with the Minister of Culture and Trade to establish a working group. This group will be responsible for preparing a bill that would enable companies to apply for licenses to produce and distribute cannabis medicines. To proceed with the pilot program, the ministry must present the bill by December 31. It’s expected that the four-year program will commence on January 1, 2024.
Currently, the only legally prescribed cannabis-based medicine in Iceland is Sativex. Sativex contains CBD and THC in isolated forms and is used to treat side effects associated with multiple sclerosis (MS) and muscular dystrophy. However, access to Sativex is highly regulated and only licensed neurologists can prescribe it. CBD products without THC are already legal in Iceland.
Documents released by Alþingi reveal that the proposed project will adopt a structure like the one implemented in Denmark in 2018. The primary objectives of this model are to enhance understanding of the impacts of cannabinoids and to ensure that patients don’t have to resort to obtaining cannabis products through illegal means. By following this approach, the project aims to promote safe and legal access to cannabis-based products while advancing research and knowledge on the plant’s potential.