Why A Senator Found Minnesota's New Edibles Law Hard To Swallow

Minnesota State Rep Heather Edelson likely knew she had a battle on her hands when she submitted a bill that would legalize marijuana edibles. Edelson said the bill was critical because it was meant "to regulate edible THC products that were already being sold throughout the State of Minnesota under a gray area of existing law," according to the Minnesota House of Representatives.

In her statement, Edelson also said the new law, not only allows gives adults a "safe and regulated" way to get their hands on edibles. It was also meant "to address illegal products that were putting the public at risk, and young people in particular, with unreasonably high dosages and misleading products that mimicked popular name brand products that were consumed by minors such as cereals, candy-like skittles (sic) and Sour Patch Kids." The journey of Edelson's bill was one for Schoolhouse Rock; it included appearances before "three different legislative committees," per KARE11, and ended up passing before the May legislative session came to a close.

For a state that doesn't have a law legalizing the use of recreational marijuana, Edelson had an outside chance of getting her bill through. Yet the Minnesota Reformer says that when it came down the wire, the amendment "was passed on a unanimous voice vote" involving the Omnibus Health and Human Services Bill, as shown in a YouTube video posted by Minnesota Senate Media Services. Lawmakers had "hundreds of pages" of amendments to consider, and apparently, some pages went unread.

The measure inadvertently legalizes marijuana

It was only after the bill had passed that the GOP-controlled state senate realized what their voice vote had accomplished, and it came down to a question of semantics. The legislation seeks to "[exempt] cannabinoids derived from hemp from Schedule 1 of the controlled substances schedule," per Minnesota Reformer. But as NPR points out, THC from hemp and marijuana can make a user high – even at the 5-milligram limit set by Minneapolis lawmakers.

After the legislation was approved, Star Tribune reporter Ryan Faircloth revealed via Twitter that "Republican Sen. Jim Abeler, who chairs the MN Senate human services reform committee, tells me he did not realize the new MN law allowing THC edibles would do just that. He thought it would just regulate delta-8 THC products, said the Legislature should roll the new law back."

The implications of the statement and the vote that preceded it were not lost on some observers. And at least one of them decided to take Abeler to task in a tweet: "Let me fix that tweet for you: 'Republican Sen. Jim Abeler is an irresponsible representative who doesn't read or understand the bills votes for or against.' You're welcome!"

The new law was likely passed by accident

Even during the legislative proceedings, Senator Abeler demonstrated that he didn't understand the ramifications of his vote. The GOP lawmaker could be seen in the YouTube video of the proceedings asking, "That [vote] doesn't legalize marijuana — we just didn't do that, did we?" To which Democrat state lawmaker Tina Liebling replied, "Oh, are you kidding? Of course you have. No, just kidding. Next, we'll do that next, OK?" per NPR.

HuffPost reports that while Abeler is now hoping to reverse course, that is unlikely to happen because both the Demoncrat-run Minnesota House and Democratic Governor Tim Walz are in favor of the law. Abeler and like-minded lawmakers are now being called out by political opponents like Ken Martin, chair of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party. Martin tweeted, "While I am fully in support of their screw-up, the fact that the Republican majority in the Senate obviously does not pay attention to the bills they are passing suggests they probably shouldn't be in charge ever again. Sheer incompetence."