Local/state briefs

Parts of Minnesota campus evacuated after reported explosion

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Authorities evacuated a portion of the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis on Thursday after responding to reports of a fire and possible explosion.

No injuries were immediately reported.

The Minneapolis Fire Department tweeted about 3:30 p.m. that firefighters were responding to a fire in the basement of a building on campus. As they were extinguishing that fire, they received reports of a sewer explosion that blew manhole covers out.

Authorities were monitoring buildings for natural gas leaks and have evacuated a portion of the campus. The fire department tweeted that the incident was likely a flammable gas spill rather than natural gas in the sewer.

The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported that the fire began in the basement of the Delta Tau Delta fraternity house. Fire Chief Bryan Tyner told the newspaper that early indications suggest gasoline in sewer system caught fire and blew out the manholes. He said the department and CenterPoint Energy were working to confirm that.

“We don’t want (gasoline) to get in the sewer system,” Tyner said. “We don’t even know how it got there.”

A voicemail message left with the fire department wasn’t immediately returned.

Guard could lose 600 Minnesotans

after vaccine deadline

ST. PAUL (AP) — The Minnesota National Guard could lose hundreds of soldiers if they don’t get vaccinated against COVID-19 immediately.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported that the U.S. Department of Defense’s deadline for getting shots is Thursday. More than 95% of the Minnesota National Guard’s 13,000 members have been vaccinated but according to the percentages military officials provided that leaves more than 600 members who could face dismissal.

Across the country more than 40,000 Army National Guard soldiers making up about 13% of its total troops haven’t been vaccinated.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin ordered vaccinations for all members of the military in 2021. Deadlines varied by branch.

Edibles, beverages laced with THC legal today in Minnesota

ST. PAUL (AP) — A new Minnesota law taking effect today allows people 21 and older to buy edibles and beverages that contain a limited amount of THC, the ingredient in marijuana that creates a high.

Edibles, like gummies, and beverages can contain up to 5 milligrams of THC per serving and 50 milligrams per package under the law. Five milligrams is about half the standard dose found in recreational marijuana products in other states.

Under the law, new THC products must be derived from legally certified hemp. But, industry experts say 5 milligrams will produce the same effect whether it’s derived from hemp or marijuana, the Star Tribune reported.

“This stuff will get you high, no doubt about it,” said attorney Jason Tarasek, founder of the Minnesota Cannabis Law firm and a board member of the Minnesota Cannabis Association. “Everybody’s calling it hemp-derived THC, which makes it sound like something other than marijuana. But I went on social media and I called it adult-use marijuana, because that’s what most people are going to consider this to be.”

Steven Brown, CEO of Nothing But Hemp, said he will begin selling a dozen new THC products Friday at his six Minnesota retail stores, with a few dozen more rolling out over the next month.

“In some ways, we legalized cannabis,” Brown said.

Cannabis advocates say they’re surprised the law passed the Minnesota Legislature given Senate Republicans’ opposition to recreational marijuana legalization.

Healthcare group wants abortion issue on the ballot in SD

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A grassroots healthcare organization wants to put the abortion issue on the ballot in South Dakota.

Dakotans for Health has developed language for a potential constitutional ballot measure, which if passed by state voters would make South Dakota’s near total ban on abortion less restrictive.

Organization spokesman Rick Weiland says majority opinion should be the rule on abortion in South Dakota.

“The decision by the court, as you well know, was ‘let’s put it back to the states and let the voters decide.’ So that’s what we’re doing,” Weiland said. “We’re going to give the voters a choice, not a Legislature that’s heavily tilted.”

The proposed language says the state may regulate or prohibit abortion after the second trimester, except when necessary to preserve the life or physical or emotional health of a pregnant woman.

State law currently bans abortions except to save the life of the mother. There are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest. The South Dakota law, which was passed in 2005, mirrored a similar abortion ban lawmakers passed one year later.

The state attorney general’s office is reviewing the potential constitutional amendment language. The group cannot start circulating petitions until after the 2022 election, South Dakota Public Broadcasting reported.

The Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov. Kristi Noem say they plan to call a special session to take up more abortion-related legislation, but no specific policies or dates have been announced.

Hundreds protest Roe decision in Sioux Falls, some arrests

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Police in Sioux Falls used smoke bombs to try to disperse hundreds of people protesting the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Police Chief Jon Thum said there were a “couple of arrests” during the demonstration Wednesday night in downtown Sioux Falls. Thum said those arrested could face a charge of failing to disperse and other misdemeanors.

Police blocked traffic on one street to accommodate protesters, some who chanted “my body, my choice.”

Officers later used a loudspeaker to try to get demonstrators to move out of the street and onto sidewalks. Police in riot helmets held batons as they approached demonstrators and launched smoke bombs into the crowd.

That’s when arrests were made. At least two people who were detained with zip tie restraints, the Argus Leader reported. Thum said no tear gas was deployed.

The demonstration, organized through word of mouth and social media, had no clear organizer and that groups promoting the event had different messaging and a lack of a clear plan where they were going, officials said.


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