The Minnesota pharmaceutical board filed a civil lawsuit this week alleging that a cannabis retailer sold edible products containing more than 50 times the state's legal limit for THC. The retailer, a business conglomerate called Northland Vapor, was specifically accused of violating Minnesota's edible cannabinoid laws with marijuana items marketed under its "Death by Gummy Bears" and "Wonky Weeds" product lines.
An ongoing investigation by the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy and U.S. Food and Drug Administration is examining complaints about the company's "Death by Gummy Bears" edibles, including a report that suggests at least one person died after consuming the products, according to the pharmaceutical board. The FDA has not determined whether adverse reactions reported by consumers were caused by the "Death by Gummy Bears" edibles, but notes on its website that products containing delta-8 THC, like these gummies, "have not been evaluated or approved by the FDA for safe use in any context."
The pharmaceutical board and FDA raided the manufacturing warehouse in Moorhead, a western Minnesota city near the border with North Dakota, at the beginning of November and allegedly found close to 150,000 packages of THC products whose drug contents were much more potent than state laws allow.
The products, which officials say matched those advertised and sold on Northland Vapor's websites, included: roughly 28,896 packages of "Death by Gummy Bears" edibles that contained 100 milligrams of THC per serving and 2,500 milligrams overall; 112,710 packages of "Death by Gummy Bears" edibles that contained 100 milligrams of THC per serving and 1,000 milligrams overall; 2,400 packages of "Wonky Weeds" edibles that contained 30 milligrams of THC per serving and 300 milligrams per package; and 2,310 bottles of "Wonky Weeds" THC syrup containing 700 milligrams of THC per bottle.
Northland Vapor allegedly failed to comply with investigators' request for the results of mandatory testing procedures that screen cannabis products for toxic substances such as pesticides, heavy metals and solvents, the Minnesota pharmaceutical board said.
The lawsuit names Northland Vapor Moorhead LLC, Northland Vapor Bemidji LLC and Wonky Confections LLC as defendants, all operated by Brad Erpelding.
CBS Minnesota reached Erpelding by text message and he pointed to a statement from his attorney, which said the companies attempted to work with the state to ensure compliance with the new law. Tyler Leverington, the attorney, characterized the lawsuit an "aggressive tactic" that's an effort to "smear" their reputation.
"There is no evidence of any harm arising from the proper use of Northland products. The state's effort to suggest otherwise are shameful," Leverington said in part. "Northland is a small business committed to making a quality product and now must fight for its life against over-zealous regulators in St. Paul looking to make a splash with their newly adopted law."
Minnesota law places restrictions on how much THC manufacturers can put in their cannabis products. Any edible cannabinoid product sold in the state cannot contain more than 5 milligrams of THC per serving or 50 milligrams of THC per package. In addition to allegedly violating the terms of this state statute, Northland Vapor is accused of marketing and selling products "resembling characteristics of a fictional bear, as well as products that are modeled after gummy bear candies that are primarily consumed or marketed to children," which goes against state laws prohibiting the sale of cannabis products that resemble "cartoon-like characteristics of a real or fictional person, animal, or fruit that appeals to children."
"As consumers navigate the market, they should be aware of the amount of THC in each serving," said Jill Phillips, executive director of the Minnesota pharmaceutical board, in a statement. "Only products containing five milligrams or less per serving and fifty milligrams or less per package are permitted to be sold under state statute ... These companies far exceeded those limits and did so in a type of product historically marketed to children."
The Minnesota pharmaceutical board's civil lawsuit seeks a court order mandating the "condemnation and destruction of adulterated edible cannabinoid products" sold by Northland Vapor, and requiring the company to manufacture and sell products that comply with state restrictions on THC. The board is advising people to avoid products sold under the company's "Death by Gummy Bears" and "Wonky Weeds" brands, and said anyone who experiences adverse health symptoms after consuming these products should call their local poison control center immediately.