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Stillwater is Going After CBD Shops, for Some Reason

It might have a little something to do with a little something called Delta-8 THC.

a dropper full of CBD extract
Enecta Cannabis Extracts

Stillwater City Council unanimously passed an ordinance on Tuesday effectively banning new CBD businesses from opening in the city. The vote prevents Stillwater from accepting or considering applications for new CBD-related businesses for the next 12 months, and prevents its two existing CBD stores from expanding their existing businesses.

We asked Jason Tarasek, an attorney with the Minnesota Cannabis Association, if he could tell us his thoughts on when and why the city of Stillwater started drafting the CBD shop ordinance.

"Um, no. I can't," Tarasek says. He only learned about the proposed ordinance on Tuesday. "I'm fuckin' pissed, excuse my French."

Matt DeBow of the Stillwater Gazette sounds just as confused in a conversation with MPR's Cathy Wurzer: "It surprised me, even, to see it on the agenda."

Tarasek's running theory is that Stillwater City Council believes the legalization of adult-use marijuana is imminent in Minnesota, "and because of that, they're putting a moratorium on CBD shops, because they feel that those will soon become pot dispensaries."

"If that's the case, they're wrong," he adds.

A marijuana legalization bill did pass the house last session, but let's be serious: It has very little chance of getting through a Republican-controlled senate. Even if, by some miracle, it did pass, and even if Walz signed it into law, we're still years away from having an actual legal marijuana program in Minnesota.

Which means there might be something more at play. Quickly: CBD is one of the active ingredients in both hemp and marijuana. It's legal in all 50 states, including Minnesota, where a January 2020 law made hemp-derived CBD A-OK.

Where it gets a little confusing is that though CBD and THC are different cannabinoids, CBD stores can sell another legal cannabinoid called Delta-8 THC. (Typically, state and federal statutes that draw the legal/illegal, hemp/marijuana line refer to another cannabinoid, Delta-9 THC.) And Delta-8 THC does get you high.

"It's a different kind of high, it's a lighter high—but it still gets you high," Tarasek says. "And just about every CBD shop in Minnesota right now is making their money off Delta-8. In fact, that's true for most states in the country where they do not have adult-use marijuana."

Tarasek says it's 100% legal, in his opinion. But it's also a little bit of a murky area. The Delta-8 variant has been in the news lately as Texas argues over a ban listing it as a Schedule I drug; Forbes reported in September that "The Feds are coming for Delta-8 THC."

Steven Brown, owner of Nothing But Hemp, a CBD shop with nine locations around Minnesota, also notes that the state of Minnesota has two conflicting statutes in place around THC. Hemp was legalized in the 2018 farm bill up to .3% THC, but the controlled substance act doesn't reflect that.

You can see the contradiction in a recent case in which a Court of Appeals ruled that the defendant could be convicted of drug possession even though his vaporizer cartridges contained amounts of THC under the .3 percent threshold. Legal experts wonder if an eventual ruling from a higher court on that case could put the sale of hemp flower extracts—including CBD oil—at risk.

"To me, I find that to be concerning," Brown says. "I think the state needs to really dial in the regulations first, and then from there, there can be individual city ordinances."

The question is: Is Stillwater worried about Delta-8? Or about the implications of that case?

We don't know, because though we contacted Stillwater's city council members, none of them got back to us. "The mayor did tell me that they didn't want this to be taken as a stance on marijuana but more as a measure to give them time to figure out what they're going to do," DeBow told MPR. So... there's that.

Brown notes that his stores deliver to Stillwater quite often. "What's stopping any online retailer from shipping to someone in Stillwater?" The answer is nothing—yet.

And Stillwater's two existing CBD stores, Medicinal Blends Modern Apothecary and CBD House, can continue operating while the city undergoes "a study regarding CBD and cannabis uses to determine if regulations surrounding zoning and licensing are appropriate," per the ordinance.

"It's understandable. It's new. It's confusing. There's a lot of stigma and disinformation around it," Tarasek says. "But... I don't know what they're up to, or what they intend to study."

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