In storefronts and on signs around Minnesota lately, you may be seeing a lot more green. No, it’s not Christmas yet, but a large number of CBD oil products are being advertised. As the wave of cannabis legalization has swept across the United States, some of its products, and debate, has made its way to our state. So what is CBD oil and what could it mean for the further legalization of cannabis in Minnesota?
To start, the presence of CBD oil in stores does not mean cannabis (colloquially marijuana) is legal for recreational use in this state. Minnesota has a complex framework of laws in place to regulate it. Cannabis possession in Minnesota is illegal but somewhat decriminalized. Possession of 42.5 grams or less will get you a $200 fine, while anything above that will result in larger fines and/or jail time. Sale and cultivation is highly regulated to medical and industrial producers. Medical marijuana was legalized in 2014 only for specific conditions and only specifically licensed dispensaries are able to distribute the drug.
So why is CBD oil exempt? The main difference between CBD oil and recreational cannabis is that the oil only contains cannabidiol, one of the component substances in the cannabis plant. The substance that produces a high and makes the plant desirable as a drug, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), is not present in CBD products.
CBD has been touted as being able to help with numerous conditions and ailments. This has led to an explosion of business, with numerous specialty stores opening across the state and existing retailers adding CBD products. However, it has only been approved by the FDA to treat epilepsy as the ingredient in a drug named Epidiolex. Thus, any health benefits claimed by CBD oil are vague at best until more research is completed.
In addition to bringing cannabis products on the general market for the first time, the debate around medical marijuana and CBD oil has raised the discussion of full-scale legalization in Minnesota. Earlier this year, a new law was proposed in the Legislature that would allow Minnesotans over the age of 21 to possess, buy and grow certain amounts of cannabis. Gov. Walz has also stated legalized cannabis could be a new source of tax revenue and reduce how many people are in jail for drug offenses if done correctly.
On the other side of the debate, Republicans in the Minnesota Senate have largely opposed such moves, arguing not enough has been seen from the states that have legalized cannabis so far, and questioning legalization while the opioid crisis is also ongoing. There are also concerns about driving under the influence of cannabis and whether it is a gateway to other, harder drugs.
A step in a positive direction in my view will be a tour of 15 cities that House Democrats will be making in the coming weeks to talk about the cannabis legalization process. It will also include a stop in St. Cloud on Oct. 12. I think it’s important people across the state are consulted and know the facts about cannabis before any legalization effort is pursued.
With CBD oil growing in popularity, I think we as Minnesotans should start thinking about the benefits and risks potential recreational cannabis use could entail. With Republicans and Democrats squaring off over the issue, this also could easily be something to factor into your voting decision in 2020. Ultimately, if legalization does occur, we should be making a decision and crafting laws that will keep people safe while allowing for regulated and secure commerce.
Connor Kockler is a student at St. John’s University. He enjoys writing, politics and news, among other interests.
Author: Connor Kockler
Kockler enjoys extensive reading, especially biographies and historical novels, and he has always had an almost inborn knack for writing well. He also enjoys following the political scene, nationally and internationally. In college, his favorite subjects are political science and economics. Two of his other hobbies are golfing and bicycling.