Minnesota Legalizes Hemp-Derived THC Edibles: What This Means for Employers

In a move that stunned even some Minnesota lawmakers who voted yes, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz signed H.F. 4065 into law, legalizing the sale and consumption of “edible cannabinoid.” The law mandates that the edibles do not contain more than a legally proscribed amount of THC, the THC be derived from hemp, and that the product be edible, either through food or beverage.  It is important to remember that Minnesota law still prohibits the use of recreational marijuana, and only individuals who are on the Minnesota Medical Cannabis Registry may use marijuana medicinally.

Unfortunately, the statute does not provide much guidance for employers.  The most critical questions revolve around employer drug testing and whether companies must accommodate employee use of edibles.  For example, Minnesota law prohibits employers from discriminating against employees based on their status on the Medical Cannabis Registry.  Whether further laws will be passed to provide this same level of protection for edibles remains unclear.

Further, individuals might use hemp-derived edible products to alleviate symptoms associated with anxiety, PTSD, or other medical conditions.  For this reason, if an applicant or employee fails a drug test, an employer may need to consider accommodating an employee’s use of edibles to avoid disability discrimination claims.

It also remains difficult to gauge current marijuana intoxication. THC and its metabolites are often stored in a body’s fat cells, which means THC can remain detectable for up to 30 days after use.  Until tests like those used to test for alcohol can be developed, determining whether an applicant or employee is currently intoxicated for purposes of a pre-employment drug screen, or while working on an employer’s premises, is difficult, if not impossible.  Minnesota law allows employees to use lawful products during non-working hours, so employers may consider removing TCH from its drug test panel and focus, instead, on prohibiting use during working hours and on company property.

The bottom line is that without much guidance from the statute itself, employers must consult knowledgeable counsel to determine what drug-free workplace policies should look like in wake of H.F. 4065.