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Minnesota lawmakers voted to legalize THC edibles. Some did it accidentally

An employee displays a limeade-flavored cannabis-infused gummy candy at the Chalice Farms industrial kitchen in Portland, Ore., in June 2016.
Gillian Flaccus
An employee displays a limeade-flavored cannabis-infused gummy candy at the Chalice Farms industrial kitchen in Portland, Ore., in June 2016.

A new Minnesota law lets people 21 and over buy and consume food and beverages with a small amount of hemp-derived THC, but some legislators might not have fully understood the bill before passing it.

The new law says food and beverages cannot contain more than 5 milligrams of hemp-derived THC per serving and no more than 50 milligrams per package.

Although marijuana-derived THC is still illegal in Minnesota, THC derived from hemp is chemically the same. Marijuana and hemp come from the same cannabis plant, though the plants are bred differently, with marijuana plants high in THC and hemp plants very low in THC.

THC, or delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol, is the chemical that causes the high of marijuana.

The nature of the Republican-controlled Senate, which has opposed recreational marijuana legalization efforts in the past, raises questions about whether the legalization was accidental.

Minnesota state Sen. Jim Abeler, a Republican from Anoka, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune he did not realize this law would allow THC-infused edibles of any kind and thought it would only apply to delta-8 THC products.

Delta-8 THC, which is similar to the standard delta-9 THC, has not been extensively researched or understood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Delta-8 is found naturally in cannabis plants but in trace amounts. Delta-8 also does not produce the same amount of "high" as delta-9.

But because of a technicality, delta-8 is considered federally legal and is often available at gas stations and convenience stores. Lawmakers in Minnesota had sought to regulate this market.

After an amendment passed unanimously during a Minnesota legislative session in May, state Sen. Abeler jokingly said: "That doesn't legalize marijuana — we just didn't do that, did we?"

When Abeler proceeded to laugh, Rep. Tina Liebling, a Democrat from Rochester, said, "Oh, are you kidding? Of course you have. No, just kidding. Next, we'll do that next, OK?"

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Shauneen Miranda
Shauneen Miranda is a summer 2022 Digital News intern.