Tribal communities see high demand at dispensaries after 3 months of legal cannabis
Three months have gone by since the state of Minnesota legalized recreational cannabis back in the summer, and the Red Lake Nation and White Earth Nation are the only locations currently operating cannabis dispensaries in the state.
“Everything seems to be going good, pretty consistent customer base, and it’s been really good business for the Nation,” said Samuel Strong, Red Lake’s Tribal Secretary.
The state licensing system for dispensaries located off tribal land isn’t anticipated to be running until sometime in 2025.
Red Lake’s dispensary, NativeCare, is now operating 7 days a week due to demand, with more than 100 customers a day, according to Strong.
“Our expectations have been exceeded, obviously, we are looking to the future, want to expand our business,” Strong said.
Red Lake Nation leaders haven’t shared publicly any financial details about sales, nor has the White Earth Nation, which also cultivates and sells cannabis at a dispensary in Mahnomen.
“We’re seeing anywhere from 50 to 75 pounds of material moving through our facility, and through distribution channels as it sits per month, we’re happy with what we are seeing, from production standpoint, and sales volume,” said Zach Wilson, CEO at White Earth’s Waabigwan Mashkiki LLC.
The White Earth Nation continues to hire for their operations that are expanding.
Tribal officials are making plans to open another cannabis dispensary in Bagley.
Wilson said there have been discussions with other tribal communities regarding possible partnerships.
In the final week of October, the Minnesota Office of Cannabis Management sent out its first survey to residents regarding cultivation, processing and manufacturing asking for input on rule-making for the industry in the state.
“This transition from legalization and then launch of the regulated market really typically takes 18 months to two years and in some states, it’s taken longer,” said Charlene Briner. “So we’ve said ‘It’s ambitious but achievable.’”
Briner is the interim director of the Office of Cannabis Management — after several months, the state is still searching for a full-time director, along with other key top staff.
Briner said the time frame for dispensaries located off tribal lands to possibly open is still on for 2025.
“At this point, we are on track, a lot of things have to go really right for that to happen,” said Briner.
Back in Red Lake, north of Bemidji, tribal leaders say after three months of sales they feel the future is bright.
“I think the cannabis industry can be something that can really help our nation financially, but also as we plow the money back into our community for a social perspective as, jobs and much-needed programs for our community,” Strong said.