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Minnesota sues THC edible companies over illegally potent gummies

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Minnesota sues THC edible companies over illegally potent gummies

Dec 05, 2022 | 6:52 pm ET
By Michelle Griffith
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Minnesota sues THC edible companies over illegally potent gummies
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Officials displayed photos of the Death by Gummy Bears products at a press conference at the Capitol on Monday, Dec. 5. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota Reformer.

The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy filed a lawsuit Monday against three Moorhead companies for allegedly selling packages of gummy bear edibles containing over 50 times the state’s legal limit of THC per package.

The state filed the civil lawsuit against Northland Vapor Moorhead, Northland Vapor Bemidji and Wonky Confections LLC in Clay County District Court in northwest Minnesota and is seeking to block the companies from making and selling any more THC edibles that violate state law. 

Regulators are also seeking a court order to destroy the companies’ existing packages of THC edibles that violate state law, including some that have over 50 times the state’s legal limit of THC per package. The estimated value of the companies’ illegal products totals $7 million, officials said.

The lawsuit is the first major regulatory action by the Board of Pharmacy since the Legislature legalized edibles earlier this year in an action that went largely unnoticed until days before the law went into effect on July 1.

Under state law, companies may sell edibles and beverages containing no more than 5 milligrams per serving and 50 milligrams per package. The products may not come in animal shapes or have characteristics that appeal to children. 

The Minnesota Board of Pharmacy has received 46 complaints regarding the industry since the law went into effect, the board’s executive director Jill Phillips said during a Monday news conference. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration and state regulators began investigating the Moorhead-based companies after death of a 23-year-old man shortly after he ate 10 “Death by Gummy Bears” edibles, according to court filings. The cause of death was listed as undetermined, and the person died outside of Minnesota, Phillips said.

In addition, five Iowa teenagers fell ill after consuming one-half to two gummies. Phillips said the teenagers experienced severe anxiety, tremors, nausea and vomiting, increased heart rate and trouble breathing. Two of the teens went to the emergency room.

The Board of Pharmacy has 23 employees in the agency and is tasked with regulating pharmacies, pharmacists, drug wholesalers and drug manufacturers.

However, it has five full-time surveyors responsible for THC inspections and investigations for the entire state, Phillips said. The Legislature last session didn’t allocate additional resources to regulate the THC industry. 

Northland Vapor President Brad Erpelding — who according to the secretary of state’s website is listed as the manager and registered agent for all three companies the state is suing — acknowledged to investigators that the edibles were noncompliant with state law. However, he told them they weren’t sold in Minnesota. The investigators later visited Northland Vapor’s retail site in Moorhead and found illegal products on sale at the store, according to the complaint.

The state also alleges that the THC edibles were not tested for pesticides, heavy metals and solvents, as required by state law. The complaint states that the manufacturer didn’t provide testing results when asked. 

Manufacturers, distributors and sellers of the THC edibles do not need to be licensed by the Board of Pharmacy to operate.

Phillips said the Board of Pharmacy will ask lawmakers this upcoming session to pass comprehensive legislation regarding licensing, taxation, regulation and enforcement. The board will also support creating a cannabis management office to oversee the industry, she said.