CBD moratorium extended by city council to early December
by Tom Coombe
As they search for consensus or at least a majority decision, Ely council members have extended a moratorium on expanding the sale of cannabinoid products in town.
New “CBD” businesses or even the addition of new products at businesses that already sell the now-legal products are prohibited, perhaps until early-December after action earlier this week.
Council members made that move, and set up an ad hoc committee to explore the issue further, after a series of meetings where they struggled to find common ground.
“At this point it appears our conversation in regards to licensing and regulation is ongoing and we don’t have a precise definition,” said city attorney Kelly Klun. “And we are nearing the end of our moratorium.”
Mayor Heidi Omerza agreed and said the council was “running out of time” to make a decision, given a moratorium that was set to expire in March.
This week’s action buys city officials more time as they attempt to come up with a resolution on the only CBD matters they control - which is the licensing of sales in town.
Regardless of city action, cannabinoid products such as gummies or THC beverages are legal to use by those age 21 or over, after legislative action by Minnesota lawmakers in 2022.
Those products are already being sold in town at some businesses including convenience stores, but the city was drawn into the matter earlier this year when they fielded a request from an entrepreneur who proposed both an off-sale and on-sale CBD business in the Sheridan Street storefront that previously housed Hand Done T-Shirts.
The business owner later withdrew his plans for the “on sale” portion of his business, including a lounge where people could buy and consume the products on site. But Klun indicated the city has also heard from an existing restaurant that has requested to sell THC beverages.
The proposals have resulted in cumbersome, at-times awkward council discussions, with some members voicing reservations about allowing on-sale businesses and some calling for CBD products to be sold only at specific cannabis product businesses, which would force some businesses to take those products off of their shelves.
Klun has requested direction from the council, but members have as yet been unable to find common ground.
Council member Al Forsman was absent when the group addressed the issue earlier this month, but he offered his input this week and said he continued to oppose on-sale CBD businesses. A prohibition of on-sale purchases would also make the sale of THC beverages off limits at restaurants or bars.
He said “I was expecting to see the non-exclusive prohibiting on sale,” and would have voted for it had it been up for consideration.
“I personally don’t see the need for an ad hoc committee,” said Forsman.
Further muddying the waters are potential legislative decisions related to the legalization of recreational marijuana.
Forsman said “there are going to be changes but I don’t think waiting for (the state) is necessarily the right move either.”
Council member Angela Campbell cited the marijuana issue in brief discussion Tuesday.
“Today I watched the Senate committee on this very concern and I know there’s a lot of confusion,” said Campbell.
But at least for now, the city is dealing only with those products already legalized and Klun said the ad-hoc group would be limited to that issue.
“The sole purpose is relative to this ordinance,” she said.
Klun and assistant police chief Mike Lorenz will be joined by Omerza, Campbell and council member Jerome Debeltz on the ad hoc group.
Should agreement on an ordinance be reached, the moratorium could be pulled.
“The council of course could initiate an ordinance at any time,” said Klun.
“We can end this (moratorium) early,” added Omerza.
Klun indicated the city’s only authority rests with regulating sales, although the city has the option to have stricter rules than set by the state.