by Dennis Dalman
A moratorium on sales of THC in Sartell was lifted by the city council at its Nov. 28 meeting, despite some queasy qualms from all of the council members.
THC is an acronym for the word “tetrahydrocannabinol,” a substance that is described by some as a “mood elevator” that can make people feel “high” (mellow and relaxed). THC is a substance derived from the hemp plant, which is a botanical kissin’ cousin of the marijuana plant.
Last summer, the Minnesota Legislature approved legal sales of the substance in “edibles” that include gummy candies or in liquid form. Those mood elevators are sometimes referred to as “cannabinoids.”
At its July 25 meeting, the Sartell City Council pondered how to draft an ordinance covering sales of such products within the city. The council decided to impose a five-month moratorium on such sales until an ordinance could be drafted and approved.
Like Sartell, many other cities in Minnesota also passed moratoriums because of all of the unknowns about legalization of THC. However, recently the cities of St. Cloud and Waite Park lifted their moratoriums after ordinances were drafted and approved. At the Nov. 28 Sartell council meeting, Police Chief Jim Hughes discussed the issue, saying the ordinance proposed by Sartell is almost identical to those of Waite Park and St. Cloud.
Sartell’s ordinance would allow sales of such “edibles” only in licensed tobacco shops and at least 1,000 feet from any venues catering to children including schools, parks and playgrounds. In addition, sales would be forbidden to people under age 21, checking for IDs would be required (as for alcohol and tobacco products) and police would do compliance checks at those shops.
In their long discussion, every council member emphasized the number-one goal is to keep children safe, no matter what. They agreed unanimously to approve the ordinance, but they also agreed strongly the ordinance will likely have to be adjusted from time to time depending on any problems that might arise.
“We’ll continue to have this conversation,” said council member Jill Smith.
“Changes come fast,” said member Tim Elness, adding purchasing such products might someday become as common as someone buying a six-pack of beer. He also said conflicts with businesses are probably inevitable because of freedom-to-compete rights – that is, establishments other than tobacco shops might ask to be allowed to sell such products.
“We’ll have to revisit it (ordinance) probably within a year,” he said.
Sartell Administrator Anna Gruber called the ordinance a good foundational stepping stone and said it is possible the Minnesota Legislature might act to tweak the law too, once reliable data are collected through a learning process.