THC in your seltzer? Brewers and the state interpret law differently
A state warning has some retailers and producers taking a wait and see on THC-infused brews.
ROCHESTER — When it comes to THC, many of Minnesota’s craft brewers are taking a wait and see approach.
As of July 1, products containing up to 5 milligrams of hemp-derived tetrahydrocannabinols, the primary intoxicant in cannabis plants, can now be sold in Minnesota . The change surprised even some of the lawmakers who passed the legislation.
Some confusion on regulation of sales of THC-infused products prompted letters to liquor sellers earlier this month from the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Alcohol Gaming Enforcement Division stating liquor sellers aren’t authorized to sell THC products.
This caught Jack Lester, owner of Jack’s Bottle Shop in Rochester, by surprise.
Lester was an early adopter of THC-infused products when the law took effect in July. He said he was looking forward to offering customers THC-infused beverages.
“It was spectacular the first few weeks,” Lester said.
He said first-time customers and people who wanted to avoid smoke and vape shops were the top buyers of the THC-infused waters, chocolates and gummies he initially offered until receiving a letter from the DPS.
The letter clarified the limited list of items off-sale liquor stores are allowed to sell.
“THC products, anything, are not on this,” he said.
This has led to some breweries to hold off on plans to create THC beverages if where they can be sold is restricted.
While some breweries are beginning to introduce non-alcoholic beverages infused with THC, under current law, THC can’t be added to alcoholic beverages, DPS officials said.
That makes regulation of THC outside the purview of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild, said guild board president Dawn Finnie.
Finnie, who is co-owner of Little Thistle Brewing in Rochester, said her understanding is that breweries could sell THC-infused seltzers where they’re made and in taprooms and some other retailers.
The lack of clarity on off-site sales has some producers waiting before beginning to make anything in their facilities.
The passage of the legislation also took brewers by surprise, she added.
“We really hadn’t had solid conversations about it at least at a craft brewers guild level,” Finnie said.
As far as production at her brewery, that’s still up in the air.
“We hate to have something about ready and then find out, oh, we can’t sell it in this way or that way,” she said.
The owners of Kinney Creek Brewing, Rochester's oldest brewery, which already produces a line of seltzers, is similarly holding off on creating THC-infused seltzers until rules of sales and distribution are clarified.
If any Rochester brewery does move forward with something, Lester would normally jump at an opportunity to sell it.
Lester focuses on carrying sought-after and Minnesota-made beverages at his store. He said he hopes some clarifications or changes to the rule will allow him to sell what Minnesota producers have to offer.
Duluth-based Bent Paddle Brewing and Indeed Brewing in Minneapolis both announced they will produce a low-THC content seltzer this month. Minneapolis Cider Co. has introduced two flavors of Trail Magic, a non-alcoholic containing 3 milligrams of THC.
David O’Neill, co-founder of Minneapolis Cider Co., said the THC in the beverage will provide consumers with a buzz equivalent to about a 5% alcohol content cider.
Lester said those are the type of products his customers would typically buy. Trail Magic is available in some nearby liquor stores, he said, which, from his understanding, might violate the policy he was warned about.
Despite the temptation to do the same, Lester said he won’t carry those beverages until he’s given a clear okay to do so.
“I’d hate to be the poster child for what happens if you go against what is allowed or how it’s interpreted,” he said.
Besides, quietly carrying unique beverages isn’t his style, he added.
“If we’re bringing a product into the shop, we want to promote it,” he said.
For now, he’s holding off carrying any items with the hope some clarifying legislation comes from next year’s legislative session.
“I don’t mind having to jump through hoops if it means this industry can be allowed to grow in the right way,” he said. “Set those hoops up, I’ll jump through them.”