Red Lake Nation Dispensary

Being the newest state to fully legalize cannabis within its border, Minnesota has had ample economic and employment opportunities created for the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Along with creating thousands of Minnesotan jobs, the Minnesota cannabis industry generated over half a million dollars in tax revenue for the state. The state also has the geographic advantage of being fully surrounded by states that don’t currently have any legal cannabis laws and have no immediate plans to reform those draconian laws, so the amount of interstate commerce that Minnesota will receive will certainly be substantial.

However, one additional benefit that no one is speaking directly about is the economic opportunities that exist for the Native American reservations and their citizens that exist within Minnesota’s border. Compared to other states, Minnesota has a large number of reservations, with a total of 11 different federally recognized tribes having reservation land. And very similar to the Paiute tribe’s ownership and operation of the cannabis megastore and venue Nuwu Marketplace in Las Vegas, the Native American tribes and tribal lands in Minnesota currently have a significant advantage over the non-tribal lands. As although cannabis is now recreationally legal in Minnesota, recreational dispensaries won’t open up outside of tribal territories for at least another year.

“The first retail dispensary sales (except for tribal nations) are expected to begin in the first quarter of 2025.” an announcement by the Minnesota Office of Cannabis Management very explicitly read.

Because of this provision, dispensaries located on tribal lands are technically the only dispensaries that can complete recreational cannabis purchases. One of the tribes that have become leaders and pioneers in Minnesota cannabis is the Red Lake Nation, who’s reservation located about 90 minutes from the Canadian border spans nearly 1,300 square miles. Their flagship store, NativeCare, made history as the very first recreational dispensary in the state and the tribe recently announced another revolutionary way that NativeCare will be selling their products.

In an innovative selling method that hasn’t been replicated yet due to various state and local ordinances, the Red Lake Nation will be operating the very first mobile dispensary which will appear like a food truck. As a whole, mobile cannabis vendors are a very new concept despite the American cannabis industry existing for almost a decade now.

Minnesota Cannabis Attorney, Aaron John, stated “This mobile dispensary model would be a first for the cannabis industry when it comes to the authorization of mobile sales.” During the 2023 Nevada Legislature Session, Assembly Bill 253 would have authorized similar mobile cannabis vendors but the bill died in the legislative process and didn’t make it to Governor Lombardo’s desk. While cannabis consumption lounges will become an eventual reality, mobile cannabis sales is a concept that Nevadans and the millions of annual visitors will have to wait a while longer for.

Because the cannabis laws are handled differently on tribal lands than they would be on non-tribal lands, cannabis industry concepts such as mobile sales don’t have to go through years of red tape and oftentimes costly unnecessary planning. However, assuming that NativeCare’s food truck of cannabis becomes a reality, the mobile dispensary may only operate on tribal lands and aren’t authorized to sell outside of their reservations.

Luckily for the Red Lake Nation, the tribe’s leadership seem hopeful about the opportunities and prospects that mobile cannabis sales could allow. Tribal Secretary Samuel Strong mentioned that he’s “very excited to see how the community will respond.”

“Obviously, there’s some more security concerns that would be involved with a food truck, but very similar to that concept,” Strong discussed. “You know, setting up shop and being able to serve customers and have the same level of customer service while being mobile and being more available to our consumers.”

For a dispensary in such an otherwise secluded area, NativeCare has received quite a number of customers. The tribe estimates about 300 customers per day come to visit the store, which is currently one of only two legally operating dispensaries in the entire state. And although there  were initial security concerns regarding the sudden increase in traffic and visitors to the reservation, many of those concerns haven’t come to fruition. Strong even complimented both the customers and the industry employees alike.

“What I found is that the people that are participating in this industry are very friendly, and very respectful of our laws. And we’ve been getting good business at the store and our casino and other businesses around the community.” Strong said. “And I think we’re really changing perceptions, both of outsiders coming onto Red Lake and of outsiders from the Red Lakers’ perspective. And so that’s really a positive part is seeing that building those bridges, and cannabis is doing just that.”

The Red Lake Nation also has future plans to open two more retail dispensaries near their casinos in Warroad and Thief River Falls.



Aaron Pelley

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