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Faribault Police seize cannabis plants from local business

Police are investigating whether posting 22 plants for sale in front of a local business is a violation of Minnesota's new recreational cannabis statutes.

FARIBAULT, Minn. — Faribault police have nearly two dozen cannabis plants in lockup after they were confiscated from a local business Tuesday on the first day of recreational cannabis being legal in Minnesota. 

A release from the department says squads were dispatched just before 5 p.m. after receiving several complaints from citizens about cannabis plants being sold at a tent sale outside Total Tobacco.

Responding officers located what they suspected were 22 cannabis plants labeled by strain, with some marked with claimed THC concentrations higher than that allowed for legally grown industrial hemp. 

Total Tobacco and cannabis company NuQanna both said the tobacco shop just served as a distribution center for NuQanna's pre-sales. 

While police said they believed the plants were cannabis, NuQanna managing partner Matt Little insist they were hemp.

"It really comes down to at what stage they are in," said Little. "Meaning, is there THC in this plant right now? And the answer is no.

Little says the plants they sold were only labeled as having the potential to go above hemp-level thresholds. 

Police are investigating the incident as a potential violation of Minnesota's recreational cannabis statutes, which took effect Aug. 1. No arrests were made. 

According to a statement from the Office of Cannabis Management, sales of hemp and cannabis are treated differently under the law.

"Once fully operational, the Office of Cannabis Management will be responsible for regulating the legal adult-use cannabis market in Minnesota. Until then, no retail sales are legal (unless conducted by tribes on tribal land) until businesses are licensed," read a statement from the Office of Cannabis Management.

"It is a very confusing question,: said Jason Tarasek, an attorney with Vicente LLP,  a national cannabis law firm. He says he can see why growers would classify their products as hemp if they are under .3% THC.

"I think the problem is that the Minnesota regulators may disagree with that conclusion," said Tarasek. "They're, to my knowledge, taking the position that anything that is going to grow into marijuana is marijuana. "

"I hope this sets some positive precedents for the future," said Josh Swanson, an employee of Total Tobacco. "The plant is here to stay, let's not make it hard for law-abiding citizens, you know?" 

The new law does allow retailers to sell cannabis seeds if they comply with labeling and other requirements set by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture. From those seeds, adults can grow up to eight plants at home with no more than four flowering at a time. The plants must be grown in an enclosed, locked space that’s not open to public view, whether that's indoors or in a garden.

“The Faribault Police Department is committed to supporting businesses engaged in the legal sale of cannabis and cannabis-related products once the Minnesota Office of Cannabis Management is established," Chief John Sherwin said. "Until that time, unauthorized sales of cannabis will be investigated in accordance with state law.”

There is little doubt there will be many questions and a fair amount of confusion as Minnesota moves down the legal cannabis road. Tribal governments not subject to state statutes can sell recreational pot immediately, while others who want to get into the retail sales business will have to wait until the state's licensing system is up and running, which may take until 2025. 


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