Minnesota Native American Tribe Will Begin Selling Recreational Cannabis on August 1

Minnesota Native American Tribe Will Begin Selling Recreational Cannabis on August 1

The Red Lake Nation could become the first entity to open an adult-use marijuana dispensary in the state.

The competitive push to gain market share in the newly legalized Minnesota recreational cannabis market has begun. As first reported by Marijuana Moment, the Red Lake Nation’s tribal council voted this past Tuesday to legalize adult-use marijuana and start selling it to both tribal and non-tribal members on August 1.

Minnesota’s freshly signed measure legalizing marijuana will allow citizens of the North Star state to possess cannabis by that same August 1 date legally. However, because the state still needs time to create and implement a dispensary licensing system, retail locations are not anticipated to open for another 12 to 18 months. This move by the Nation’s council will enable the tribe to open and operate the first retail cannabis dispensary in Minnesota, where the projected market should top $1.5 billion over the next five to ten years.

Additionally, because the tribe already grows and dispenses medical marijuana on the reservation (legalized through a 2020 referendum), the Red Lake Nation is perfectly positioned to open its own tribal-run dispensary. According to Red Lake Nation tribal secretary Sam Strong, NativeCare, the tribe’s medical marijuana provider, will begin selling adult-use cannabis in limited amounts to Minnesotans 21 and older beginning on August 1.

Along with the clear economic benefits, Strong also elaborated on a more pressing reason why the council chose to legalize recreational marijuana on the reservation at this time. In an attempt to help battle the devastating opioid epidemic plaguing the Nation, Strong and other tribal leaders hope that legalizing adult-use cannabis will offer therapeutic alternatives for those struggling with addiction. Likewise, a share of the revenue generated by the sale of recreational marijuana will also go to fund substance abuse prevention.

“We see this as a resource not only to reduce harm but to also bring in resources to help our people recover,” Strong said.

"We see this as a resource not only to reduce harm but to also bring in resources to help our people recover.”

- Red Lake Nation tribal secretary Sam Strong

However, even though Red Lake will have a decided market advantage by opening the first retail cannabis store in the state, it will not exactly be a convenient trek for most potential consumers in Minnesota. The reservation is three hours from Moorhead and Duluth and over four hours from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

To help mitigate the journey for many customers, the tribe is mulling over the idea of opening locations on tribal land near Thief River Falls and Warroad. In addition, through agreements negotiated with Gov. Tim Walz (DFL) and his administration, Red Lake will be allowed to open and operate dispensaries off the reservation.

Strong concluded his comments by adding that the medical marijuana cultivated and dispensed by the tribe consistently meets the highest quality standards and contains no harmful contaminants. He also stated that the tribe will release more informational details for consumers before the end of July.

One interesting and telling detail of the council’s decision to authorize the sale of recreational marijuana is the fact that alcohol remains prohibited within the borders of the Red Lake Nation reservation. For a plant that has been so maligned and portrayed as a dangerous narcotic, primarily by Big Alcohol interests over the past 100 years, it is quite beautifully ironic that the indigenous peoples of Minnesota see such value in the power of cannabis contrasted against the dark and terrible effects wrought on them by the appropriately named “fire water.”