Proposed CBD coffee shop in Dinkytown faces legal problems

Cosmic Bean Dispensary is being forced to restructure its business model after the Minneapolis Health Department raised questions about the CBD-infused drinks.

Owner of Wally's and Hideaway, Wally Sakallah, stands in the doorway of the space that was to be Cosmic Bean Dispensary. Construction is currently underway inside the building, which is next to Hideaway.

Tony Saunders

Owner of Wally’s and Hideaway, Wally Sakallah, stands in the doorway of the space that was to be Cosmic Bean Dispensary. Construction is currently underway inside the building, which is next to Hideaway.

Imani Cruzen

After announcing plans to open last month, a Dinkytown coffee shop selling CBD-infused drinks has been met with legal pushback. 

Hideaway and Wally’s Falafel and Hummus owner Wally Sakallah originally planned for his newest business, Cosmic Bean Dispensary, to sell drinks and food infused with CBD oil. But this would be a “critical violation” of the Minneapolis Health Department food codes, said Daniel Huff, environmental health director with the health department.

A critical violation means adding the product to food or drinks could directly make someone ill. Until CBD oil is FDA-approved or generally recognized as safe, business owners can’t add it to food or drinks.

“But that’s the way that we ensure that anything that’s being added to people’s food, research has shown that it’s not going to have a negative impact,” Huff said. “And we’re not saying that CBD is unsafe, but we don’t have the evidence to show that it is safe.”

Sakallah is working with the health department to find alternative business models. While Sakallah can’t sell CBD in the drinks, he can sell it separately, Huff said, which is what Sakallah plans to do.

“Are you making coffee with CBD in it? No, we’re not,” Sakallah said. “We’re not making coffee with the CBD. But we’re selling CBD, and we’re selling coffee.”

Sakallah’s plans to put CBD in food items are also up in the air as he works with the health department.

“Any business person that comes to us, [we] always try to figure out best solutions for them,” Huff said. “It’s more challenging for the business owner and more challenging for us when there’s something new, right? And CBD is new for us right now.”

Huff said Sakallah will be able to open his business, but he will need to run his plans by the health department so it can ensure they meet all regulations set by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, the FDA and the Minnesota Department of Health.

“This whole CBD thing is a very complicated issue from a legal standpoint,” said Margaret Wiatrowski, an industrial hemp program coordinator with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture.

The regulations set by various departments, like the Minneapolis Health Department, might be different from those set by the FDA. There can be a disconnect between what is agreed on.

Cannabis is considered a medicine under state law, Wiatrowski said, and can only be sold by the Minnesota Department of Health’s medical cannabis program. This differs from what  Minneapolis Health Department officials have said. The Minneapolis Health Department told Sakallah he can sell the oil separately.  

“And you’ll probably get a different answer from every single person that you call,” Wiatrowski said. “And that’s just how it is right now because it’s such a new thing and the laws and the regulatory agencies haven’t really caught up.”