OTTER TAIL COUNTY – Tears were shed and concerns were shared as different views on THC-derived food and beverages were discussed during a special Otter Tail County Board meeting on Monday, Nov. 21.
Almost 20 people spoke at the public hearing regarding a proposed moratorium on sales of THC food and beverages in the county. If it were enacted, the moratorium could last up to 12 months.
The stated purpose of the ordinance is to allow the county to create policies regarding licensing, enforcement, potential public health threats and other concerns. The draft allows for cities to establish regulations by resolution, cities could be exempt from the moratorium by enacting an ordinance. It was noted the moratorium would not impact medical marijuana or non-edible CBD products.
Before the public hearing, the county board was informed that state regulations were minimal, but buyers must be at least 21 years of age and packaging cannot appeal to children.
The members of the public who got emotional while speaking were opposed to the moratorium. When they spoke about how THC products improved their lives, their emotions became apparent as their voices broke, sniffles escaped and pauses were taken to regain their composure. Several discussed how using THC products removed anxiety, health-related issues and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Some claimed the products “gave them their lives back.”
A few also noted they had medical marijuana cards, but opted to shop locally for THC products, as the closest medical marijuana dispensary was in Moorhead, Minn.
A man who stated he was a veteran spoke about the use of THC with PTSD. He stated there were studies showing, at first, THC may help with PTSD symptoms. However, he said, in the long haul the drug can have the reverse effect.
Another parent stated she appreciated having local businesses with the product. That way, if she had a concern about someone using a THC product, such as a minor, she had someone to answer her questions.
Minors using the product illegally were a common concern for those who spoke in favor of the moratorium.
A man who stated he researches addiction believed THC usage by minors could damage their brain. He went on to suggest minors who use THC-derived products heavily, may also suffer from “serious” mental disorders.
A resident from Fergus Falls explained laws can be made, such as the case for alcohol and tobacco, but if minors want something, they get it. She noted the vaping problem among minors as a prime example. She stated educating the public would be a more proactive approach.
Concerns were also expressed about who makes the products and whether or not the manufacturers are regulated. There was also trepidation about a free-for-all market where any business could sell THC products.
Business owners that sell THC products were at the county board meeting. One business owner explained there are restrictions and regulations intertwined with selling THC products. She explained that it took several months to set up a business bank account and get insured. To get insured, she explained that she had to disclose the store’s THC supplier information, as well as show that the products they sell are tested and compliant with state law.
The Fergus Falls city administrator also attended the meeting. He asked the county board to keep the section in the moratorium ordinance that allows cities to create their own ordinance and opt out of the moratorium.
Otter Tail Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons was also present at the meeting. He noted law enforcement’s concern was not if the product should be legal or not, rather their concern had to do with public safety.
The county board thanked those who expressed their opinion on the matter and invited anyone who has not yet shared their opinion and information to do so by emailing the county before Nov. 30 at 4 p.m.
The board secretary’s number is 218-998-8051 and her email is email@example.com