Crow Wing County businesses selling products containing hemp oil received a warning this week from the county attorney-stop sales or face charges.
"A person cannot sell a product intended for human consumption in Minnesota if it has any traces of cannabinoids in it, such as CBD (cannabidiol) or THC," wrote County Attorney Don Ryan in a letter distributed to several area business owners. "Those found to be selling and/or in possession of such products in Crow Wing County will be prosecuted."
In the Monday, June 18 letter, Ryan said he understood businesses were mistakenly offering the product under the belief it was legal in the state under the Minnesota Industrial Hemp Development Act, passed in 2015.
"Our office has done extensive research regarding this and has found that any products being sold for human consumption are illegal that contain THC, CBD or hemp," Ryan wrote. "THC, CBD and hemp are Schedule 1 controlled substances under both state and federal law and are illegal to possess and/or sell."
According to Melissa Plotnick, owner of Vapor North on Washington Street in Brainerd, her business was visited by a Brainerd police sergeant Tuesday. Plotnick was not present but was placed on speaker phone to talk to the officer, who dropped off Ryan's letter and checked for the offending products. Plotnick said the officer did not find or confiscate anything from her store, but she noted she'd heard other stores experienced confiscations.
"Everybody's in an uproar right now," Plotnick said.
The business owner said she was seeking opinions from others in the business and from at least one lawyer concerning Ryan's letter. She said by her estimation, the laws concerning CBD and other hemp-related products were far from settled.
"You cannot get high off of CBD," Plotnick said. "The majority of the reputable vendors in town have a CBD (with a THC) level of .00-something (percent). It is considered trace."
Plotnick said people consume CBD at low grades to address issues such as anxiety and pain.
CBD oil is legal in 30 states where medicinal and/or recreational marijuana is legal, according to Governing magazine.
Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted said of Ryan's letter, "He drafted the memo, but we're supportive of it."
He declined to elaborate in deference to a possible press conference this week about the matter, which will involve other law enforcement officials.
"It was my understanding we were going to comment as a group on that in the press conference," Exsted said.
"The Crow Wing County chiefs association has been working with Don Ryan in regards to addressing the sale of hemp products in Crow Wing County."
According to a notice published in the Federal Register by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in consultation with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, THC levels must not exceed .3 percent for a plant to be considered "industrial hemp." This definition applies when the crop is used exclusively for industrial purposes.