THC-infused beer debuts in Rochester
Little Thistle released Chill Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. It’s the first THC-infused beverage from any of the breweries in Minnesota’s third largest city.
ROCHESTER — Little Thistle Brewing Co. might have won bragging rights to releasing Minnesota’s first THC-infused beer.
Chill, a new non-alcoholic brew from Little Thistle came out Friday, Sept. 9, 2022. It’s the first THC-infused beverage from any of the breweries in Minnesota’s third largest city. It’s also likely the first beer-based beverage in the state to be combined with THC.
Sold in 8-ounce cans for off-site consumption, Chill combines 5 milligrams of THC with the brewery’s flagship non-alcoholic Golden Unicorn beer.
Staff filled 420 cans and began selling them Friday. By Monday, a handful were left so staff filled a few more to sell over the weekend, said Little Thistle co-owner Dawn Finnie. Like THC-infused seltzers being produced by other Minnesota breweries , cans of Chill are being sold for off-site consumption, she added.
Under state legislation passed earlier this year, edible products containing up to 5 milligrams of hemp-derived tetrahydrocannabinols, the primary intoxicant in cannabis plants — known as THC — can now be sold in Minnesota.
State alcohol laws prohibit Minnesota brewers and distillers from adding THC to alcoholic beverages, though some say the law is unclear.
Most of Minnesota’s breweries are governed by the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Alcohol and Gaming Enforcement Division. However, THC regulation falls to the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy.
Which leaves THC in a sort of legal limbo.
“It’s still kind of the wild west, and we’re still waiting to see what happens,” said Finnie, who is also the chair of the board of the Minnesota Craft Brewers Guild.
The brewery was careful even promoting the product with intentionally vague descriptions to prevent social media platforms from taking down their posts about the THC-infused beer.
Around Minnesota, where and how the legalized products can be sold is still somewhat vague. The Alcohol Gaming Enforcement Division has warned liquor stores that THC products aren’t covered under the list of items they are allowed to sell.
Tony Chesak, executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, said that restriction doesn't make sense.
“This new beverage doesn’t seem to fit any of the categories listed and we do not understand why,” he said.
Chesak said he has asked for clarification from state officials on why beverages and other THC-infused products are being sold at stores where customers aren’t all 21 years old or older.
“Liquor stores are absolute experts on selling to those over 21 and not to those who are showing any visible signs of impairment,” he said.
Some cities including Austin, Minnesota, have begun passing local ordinances restricting sales of THC-infused edibles.
The lack of clarity in oversight of THC edibles has advocates of legalizing cannabis and cannabis-derived THC products seeing an opportunity.
“We wouldn’t be piecemealing these laws if we just get adult-use legalization done,” said Maren Schroeder, of the MN is Ready Coalition. The coalition is a collaboration of cannabis advocacy groups Minnesotans for Responsible Marijuana Regulation, Sensible Change Minnesota and Minnesota NORML. Schroeder is holding voter outreach and informational hearings throughout the state leading up to the November general election.
The legislation passed last year helped clarify some of how and where products with hemp-derived THC can be sold. The 2018 Farm Bill opened the door for hemp-derived THC products to be sold in states that legalized hemp products. The legislation that passed this year banned vape products containing hemp-derived THC and some other restrictions, Schroeder said.
“We needed to step in and get that a little better under control,” Schroeder said.
Legalizing THC edibles has been popular with Minnesotans, Schroeder noted. She pointed to a KSTP/SurveyUSA poll showing 66% of 775 Minnesota adults strongly or somewhat agree with the THC legalization.
Legalizing cannabis would offer similar control and organization including an oversight board and would generate tax revenue, Schroeder added.
“It also gives us the opportunity for criminal justice reform,” Schroeder said.
MN is Ready is hosting a Canna-Carravan at Gray Duck Theater and Coffeehouse at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 22. Candidates and policy makers will attend the event along with vendors of hemp and THC products.
Schroeder said she hopes the legalization of hemp-derived THC has shown the potential of legalizing cannabis for lawmakers who have been historically against legalization. The Republican-controlled senate has been the main obstacle to legalization, she added.
“We don’t believe this is a partisan issue,” Schroeder said. “I’m hoping some Republican candidates who might not be ready to support but at least come out and hear where the community stands on the issue.”
If you go
What: MN is Ready Canna Caravan
When: 7 p.m., Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022.
Where: Gray Duck Theater and Coffeehouse, 619 Sixth Ave. NW.