Synthetic Cannabinoids in Minnesota: Are the Rules Different for Cannabis and Hemp?

By Andrea Golan

Dec 19, 2023

To keep hemp businesses informed on regulations under Minnesota’s Adult-Use Cannabis Law, Vicente LLP created a series of Vicente Insights covering essential topics relating to Minnesota hemp. Our first blog of the series covered the licenses and endorsements needed to cultivate, process, manufacture, transport and sell hemp ingredients and hemp products when the Cannabis Law goes into effect in March 2025.

Part two of our Minnesota hemp series breaks down Minnesota’s regulation of “synthetic cannabinoids” – understanding how they are defined, when they can be used, and whether the rules for synthetic cannabinoids differ for cannabis and hemp.

"Synthetic Cannabinoid" Defined

Let’s begin with the precise meaning of “synthetic cannabinoid” under Minnesota’s Cannabis Law (“Cannabis Law”). When it comes to cannabinoids, the definition of "synthetic" varies depending on the state. Some states cast a broad net, including any cannabinoid created in a lab, even those derived from modifying natural cannabinoids. Other states distinguish between these two methods of production. Minnesota is one of them.

Minnesota defines “synthetic cannabinoid” twice – once in the section regulating adult-use cannabis (Article 1) and secondly in the section imposing temporary hemp cannabinoid products (Article 7). These temporary regulations will be superseded by Article I once Minnesota’s Office of Cannabis Management begins issuing licenses for adult-use products and hemp-derived products. The two definitions differ slightly in their wording, but the core concept is the same: a cannabinoid is synthetic if it is made in a lab, does not originate from the cannabis or hemp plant or plant parts, and is instead created through chemical or biochemical synthesis.

Let’s compare:

Cannabis Definition of Synthetic Cannabinoid (Article 1)

Hemp Definition of Synthetic Cannabinoid (Article 7)

Synthetic cannabinoid is "a substance that has a chemical structure and pharmacological activity similar to a cannabinoid but is not extracted or derived from cannabis plants, cannabis flower, hemp plants, or hemp plant parts and is instead created or produced by chemical or biochemical synthesis.”

A synthetic cannabinoid is "a substance with a similar chemical structure and pharmacological activity to a cannabinoid, but which is not extracted or derived from hemp plants or hemp plant parts and is instead created or produced by chemical or biochemical synthesis."


Noteworthy Inclusion: Biosynthetically Produced Cannabinoids

Notable is the inclusion of biosynthetically produced cannabinoids, meaning that even if the biosynthetic process involves the use of genetic material from the cannabis plant, the resulting cannabinoids are still classified as synthetic. Hawaii and Nevada are two other states that consider biosynthetically produced cannabinoids to be synthetic cannabinoids.

Can a Minnesota Product Contain a Synthetic Cannabinoid?

Likely not. The law states clearly that synthetic cannabinoids are not permitted in:

  • Any edible product, whether it be a cannabis edible or lower-potency hemp edible
  • A hemp-derived consumer product
  • Any cannabis product (any product infused with cannabinoids derived from cannabis and does but excluding cannabis flower)

THC-P and THC-O are not defined as synthetic but are prohibited in edible products.

The Gray Zone: Hemp Topicals with Biosynthetic Cannabinoids

Hemp topicals are a gray area. Potentially a drafting error, the law would allow synthetically derived cannabinoids to be purchased by a mezzobusiness licensee for use in manufacturing adult-use cannabis products, lower-potency hemp edibles, or hemp-derived consumer products (sec. 342.29). As drafted, this leaves an opening for synthetic cannabinoids to be used in hemp topical products. We will see if OCM affirms this interpretation or whether it’s a drafting error.

Participation in the Rulemaking Process

The next step for the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM) is to propose rules to implement the new Cannabis Law. These rules will fill in the details that were not put directly into the original law, such as the procedures to apply for licensing, laboratory testing protocols, packaging, inventory tracking, and so forth.

Through the rulemaking process, OCM is soliciting input from the public. The importance of public participation cannot be overstated. Your comments, suggestions, and feedback will play an important role in shaping regulations. OCM’s third survey concerning retail operations and other matters is open for public input until December 28, with three additional surveys scheduled immediately thereafter.

Reach out to a member of our team if you would like to discuss the Cannabis Law or would like our assistance in submitting an impactful public comment.

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