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Minnesota’s First Cannabis Dispensary Experiences Overwhelming Response on First Day of Legalization

The Red Lake Nation Tribe opened the first retail marijuana shop in the state this past Tuesday, and the turnout was so large customers eventually had to be turned away.

One week ago today, Minnesota officially became the 23rd state in America to legalize adult-use cannabis. The law, which took effect August 1, only allows adults 21 and older to possess and consume marijuana products. State regulators must still create a licensing infrastructure before retail sales can begin in roughly 12 to 18 months.


However, as part of a special agreement negotiated into the new statute, Minnesota's 11 recognized Native American tribes will be allowed to open retail dispensaries on their tribal lands immediately, pending approval by each tribal council.


Last month, the Red Lake Nation Tribal Council voted to approve adult-use cannabis sales on the reservation, and according to multiple media outlets, the first day of legal recreational sales was a smashing success for its NativeCare store location.


Prospective customers traveled several hours to wait in line amid pouring rain, at times, to become one of the first Minnesotans to purchase cannabis on the historic first day of legal sales. Demand was so intense that by 3 PM, store employees had to turn away people to keep up. By the end of the day, the store served more than 300 people, and if it could've handled the bandwidth, that number would've been closer to 500.


The NativeCare Facebook page shared this post regarding the day's events:


"NativeCare is having an amazing first day of recreational sales! We have had such a great turnout that, unfortunately, we are having to cut off the line so we can be sure to serve everyone that has been patiently waiting. We look forward to seeing more of your smiling faces tomorrow at 11 AM! Miigwech"


"NativeCare is having an amazing first day of recreational sales! We have had such a great turnout that, unfortunately, we are having to cut off the line so we can be sure to serve everyone that has been patiently waiting. We look forward to seeing more of your smiling faces tomorrow at 11 AM! Miigwech"

- Red Lake Nation NativeCare's Facebook Post on the First Day of Legal Sales


However, the physical storefront was not the only aspect of the Nation's retail presence that experienced an overwhelming response on the first day of legal sales. NativeCare's online store had to temporarily suspend operations on Wednesday to ensure the fulfillment of all purchases made in the previous 48-hour period.


The robust results experienced by the Red Lake Nation come as no surprise to the industry advocates and lawmakers who worked tirelessly to get the legalization reform measure passed. Likewise, the Red Lake Nation is not the only tribe in Minnesota taking advantage of the "early bird" access granted to the Native American Tribes in the state.


Last week, the White Earth Nation's tribal council approved adult-use cannabis sales on its tribal lands. It opened its first recreational dispensary called "Waabigwan Mashkiki," meaning "flower medicine" in Ojibwe, outside the tribe's cultivation facility in Mahnomen on Thursday.


Because tribal retail stores are the only current access points for Minnesotans seeking to purchase legal marijuana, the Red Lake and White Earth Nations are working hard to get other outlets up and running in different locations on their respective tribal lands.


For example, to help mitigate the journey for many customers, the Red Lake Nation 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 also be allowed to open and operate dispensaries off the reservation.


In the meantime, the best advice for excited and dedicated travelers making the three to four-hour trek to the Red Lake and White Earth Nation stores is to get there early, bring plenty of water and snacks, and don't forget an umbrella. The wait might be long, but the reward will be worth it!



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