East Grand Forks City Council considers direction on recreational marijuana, THC products
The cannabis industry has already seen some legalization in the state. Last year state law took effect legalizing the sale of certain edibles and beverages infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
EAST GRAND FORKS – As recreational adult-use cannabis is closer to becoming legalized in Minnesota, East Grand Forks City Council members on Tuesday discussed the direction they should take going forward.
The cannabis industry already has seen some legalization in the state. Last year, state law took effect, legalizing the sale of certain edibles and beverages infused with tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
While the law included regulations for the sale of hemp-derived THC products, including age requirement and THC limits in servings, it didn’t provide a provision on how compliance would be monitored or enforced. Instead, those provisions are left up to city and county governments to decide.
A couple of businesses have already started selling hemp-derived THC products in the city, but no action has been taken by the council on the matter.
During Tuesday’s meeting, council members considered whether a moratorium should be put in place, or if an ordinance should be drafted to set up business license requirements similar to alcohol and tobacco licenses that are currently required in the city. Though Polk County approved a moratorium in February allowing for more time to develop an ordinance to address the matter, its moratorium does not cover the city.
House File 100 is still on Gov. Tim Walz’s desk, waiting to be signed. If signed into law, the bill will allow people 21 and older to possess marijuana. It also will expunge marijuana conviction records and create a regulatory plan for cannabis products. If signed, it will go into effect on Aug. 1.
City Attorney Ron Galstad said it will be at least a year for the licensing process for dispensaries to be determined.
Galstad said since there are already businesses in the city that sell hemp-derived THC products, their right to be open can’t be taken away within a moratorium. Galstad recommended the council consider taking a moratorium route rather than drafting an ordinance.
“If it was your wish to be able to figure out where it could be sold, how it could be sold, you know, location, commercial, industrial park, whatever, I would put a moratorium on it so that we can figure out where exactly we would potentially want and control what we can,” he said.
Mayor Steve Gander said a moratorium could put a stop to more businesses from selling hemp-derived THC products in the city, but that could create a “non-competitive environment” for the businesses that are already open.
City Council Vice President Tim Riopelle said there currently is no enforcement mentioned within the proposed legislation.
“I did listen to most of the Legislature on this and they have no clue how they’re going to enforce it. Absolutely zero. There was nothing in there,” he said. “... I’m a little worried about it with no enforcement.”
Discussion will continue at a later meeting.
Also Tuesday, council members discussed requesting bonding bill support for improvements to the city’s recreational facilities. While the city did receive approval from the Legislature to proceed with a 20-year 1% sales tax — which will need to go to a citywide vote next year — additional funding for improvements on VFW Memorial Arena, Civic Center and the baseball field at Itts Williams Park is still being considered.
Preliminary requests for the state’s Capital Budget process are due by June 16. Any request that is submitted by the city will be considered when developing the State Comprehensive Capital Budget, for potential inclusion in a bonding bill.
Parks and Recreation Superintendent Reid Huttunen said another city that sought approval for both a citywide sales tax and bonding bill for improvements on a recreational facility is Grand Rapids.
If the city were to move forward with a request for bonding this year, Huttunen said a determination on whether the request is successful should be known at the end of the 2024 Legislative session.
Council member Brian Larson voiced support for requesting bonding for the projects in addition to the sales tax that still needs voter approval.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for us to fulfill a lot of the wishes of the community while still having it within a sales tax increase that could pass,” he said.
In other news Tuesday:
- At a prior special meeting, the council approved on-sale weekday and on-sale Sunday liquor license renewals for River Cinema 15, The Shire Bar & Grill and Little Bangkok. Council members also approved an off-sale intoxicating liquor license renewal for Hugo’s Wine & Spirits.
- The council discussed transfers of funds within the city budget related to the city’s Sick Leave Accrual Fund. More discussion on the budget will be brought back at a later council meeting.
- Council members also considered an agreement with Birds Ride Inc. to allow electric scooters in the city. Earlier this year, council members heard from Galstad, who went over several variables of the memorandum of understanding with Birds Ride Inc. Council members still need to approve the MOU and an ordinance will need to be drafted.