On September 13, 2021, the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued a decision upholding a drug conviction that has the potential to significantly harm Minnesota’s growing hemp industry. In State v. Loveless, the Court of Appeals considered whether the defendant could be convicted of drug possession despite his seized vaporizer cartridges containing amounts of THC under the legal threshold of .3 percent THC concentration. Ultimately, the Court found that it did and concluded “as a matter of law that the 0.3 percent threshold does not apply to a liquid mixture containing [THC].” In short, the Court found that although the Minnesota legislature had changed the definition for marijuana in the State’s Schedule 1 definition, the definition included hemp only in the form of leafy plant material, not in the form of a liquid mixture.
At first glance, the Court of Appeals’ decision demonstrates a rather common occurrence: the judiciary interpreting a statute’s language and applying it to the facts of the case. Ultimately, though, this case could have far reaching implications for Minnesota’s hemp industry. Most notably, this ruling could put at risk the sale and possession of hemp flower extracts, including CBD oil, CBN sleep oil, and other common CBD edibles. Various retailers across Minnesota now sell CBD and related products, and this ruling could put both retailers and consumers of CBD and hemp-based products at risk and could make such consumers and retailers hesitant to participate in the industry. At this point, not much is certain of the effects this recent ruling will have on the State of Minnesota. Likely the decision will be appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court. With industry and interest groups keeping a close eye on this decision and its developments, the Minnesota legislature may very well address the apparent gaps in the statutory structure sooner rather than later. Stay tuned for further developments.