Half Legal Weed: THC and the Effect of Legalization

By Erick George

Editors Note: This story includes discussions of drug use and may contain foul language. While it has been edited through Associated Press Guidelines, some readers may find this offensive. This story was submitted to The Advocate through Chris Walker’s Digital Storytelling class, it is part of a ten-part series of stories examining Minnesota’s legalization of Marijuana. Each story investigates the background and implications that come with the legalization. The series, which began on April 28th, will run until May 5th.

Photo illustration by Abby Makay

MOORHEAD – July 1, 2022. THC, the primary chemical found in marijuana responsible for the body’s psychoactive reaction of getting high, became legalized for recreational use in the State of Minnesota so long as it is derived from hemp and in the form of edibles and beverages for patrons over the age of 21.

However, the legalization does not allow for a dose of higher than that of 5 milligrams of THC per serving and no higher than 50 milligrams per package. The story of its legalization was news in and of itself, but there’s more to the story.

What happened after the legalization took effect?

The Scramble

“That first week that it went into effect, I probably got 100 calls a day about it asking if we had it yet because we were not super prepared to start selling it,” said retail supervisor Rory Everingham of Northland Vapor Moorhead. She said she heard the state was originally going to put the legalization “into effect in August and they bumped it up a month. So, we weren’t quite prepared.”

What caught them off guard was the timing. This was an issue especially for Northland because their edibles are produced by their own manufacturing facility, Wonky Confections LLC.

“We kind of had to bust our butts to get our edibles out. We got calls and calls and calls every day,” Everingham commented on the frantic effort they went through in order to satisfy this increasing pressure of consumer demand. “We definitely had to work very fast to get our edibles out, but still get them to the quality that they should be.”

However, her company did have some unforeseen complications which delayed their release of the new product. “We had to order all new gummy molds, because the only gummy molds we had were bear shaped and with the new legislation they have to be – they can’t be any like fun shapes. They have to be squares or circles” she said because of this they had to order new molds and that took some time.

Everingham recalled, with a look of anxiety on her face as if she were reliving that hectic time. She says she thought they eventually rolled out the product toward the end of July. Nearly a month after the legalization took effect. 

Solvej Lund, manager of Detroit Lakes Tobacco and Vape Plus, had it a little easier than Northland during that time due to one key difference: Detroit Lakes Tobacco and Vape Plus do not make their own product. Lund describes the time saying it felt as though they got the product right away. “I think it was maybe two weeks. If that,” Lund said, explaining that since she goes through multiple different providers it felt more rapidly available once the product was allowed on the market. Meaning that for Lund it was less of a scramble.

Now that they have the product, how have these businesses fared since? How much are they selling?

The Demand

“It’s been busy, very, very busy,” Lund said about her store since acquiring the new product. “I clear out weekly with the Delta Nine products,” the most recently legalized form of THC. “I probably order in I’d say like 200 jars worth of gummies and that clears out weekly. Yeah, it’s a hot commodity. Let me tell you, it’s probably every other customer that comes in here looking for THC gummies.”

As a purveyor of THC edibles (and most recently Delta Nine edibles), Everingham has noticed a similar phenomenon at Northland as well. She says that for her store alone she orders “about 100 jars of gummies or 100 to 150 jars of gummies every week. And I have to keep ordering that many because we continue to run out.”

Everingham believes this to be happening because of what may be a loophole in the legislation. Stating that even though the gummies are prepackaged with 50 milligrams, there’s currently no limit to how many can be purchased at a time. Meaning one customer can come in and buy as much they want at once, greatly surpassing the intended packaging limit. Everingham says this phenomenon has happened to her when she had a guy come in and buy six of them.

With so many gummies are now being sold. The question becomes who is buying them?

The Demographic

Everingham has also noticed a change in demographic since they acquired the new product. She said the customer demographic for Northland Moorhead “used to be a lot smaller, used to be primarily younger, especially college age kids in their 20s, just based on, you know, where we sit in the middle of the two universities especially.” Those being NDSU and MSU Moorhead. She says that now their demographic has “increased in size quite a bit.”

She says it is drawing in more of a crowd than before, saying it has increased especially among “some older folks too. I’ve gotten a lot of people in here who say, ‘you know, I haven’t used THC in 40, 50, 60 years.’”

This is another phenomenon that Everingham has in common with Lund. Lund says she’s noticed “a lot of elderly people coming in and just needing stuff for their aches and pains. And now that it’s legal, they feel a lot more comfortable buying it.”

With customer demographics now changed, what has the effect on each shop been?

The Effect

“We have seen quite an increase in our sales numbers,” said Everingham. She says that it’s not only with the number of sales per day, but also value and gross profit per sale. Everingham notes that they have seen an increase because “they know that we have the new THC gummies and they want to try those out. They get those along with whatever they were looking for. So it has increased our gross profit quite a bit,” Everingham said enthusiastically.

With Northland Moorhead seemingly thriving, Everingham recalls with visible satisfaction, “we were a little worried at first,” she said, but “I think we fared fairly well through it.”

Lund feels as though the recent legalization and the effects of demand and demographics haven’t been the biggest change, but rather how they sell the products. She said that all of her employees are a lot more educated now on what they’re selling. “I think that’s probably the biggest change is just learning how to describe it to somebody who has no history knowing about it all.”

Whether in terms of revenue or knowledge the effect on each shop has changed how they operate. But what does this mean for the future?

The Future

There is a nationwide trend toward full legalization of recreational marijuana. As of July of 2022, 19 states have fully legalized recreational marijuana; which 100 percent of them have done in the last 10 years. Minnesota is not one of those states. However, with medical marijuana being permitted, decriminalization of use and the legalization of some forms of THC it is clear incremental steps are being taken in Minnesota toward full legalization. But how could this eventuality affect shopkeepers currently selling THC products?

Everingham states optimistically that she believes it would bring Northland “more business and help people learn more about the products we sell and recreational marijuana in general.”

While Everingham looks at the bright side, Lund looks to the future possibility of full legalization in Minnesota with some apprehension. “I think with smoke shops like mine, if it ever became fully legal, it would hurt my business.” She feels that medical marijuana dispensaries with the change would be able to outperform smoke shops like hers and smoke shops would lose that revenue hurting them in the long term.

As Minnesota moves closer to legalization, smoke shops like Northland Vapor Moorhead and Detroit Lakes Tobacco and Vape Plus will have to adjust. For better or worse.

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