White Earth Nation to begin sale of recreational adult-use cannabis in August

A sign along Highway 59 at Ogema, Minn., directs drivers to White Earth.
White Earth Nation and Red Lake Nation will be the first to open dispensaries in Minnesota able to sell recreational use marijuana.
Ann Arbor Miller for MPR News

Following a council vote on Friday afternoon, the White Earth Nation has legalized adult-use recreational cannabis and will begin selling it sometime in the first half of August. Both tribal members and non-tribal adults 21 years and older would be able to purchase from the nation’s dispensary.

“In the near future, White Earth Nation will open for adult-use, recreational cannabis,” White Earth Chairman Michael Fairbanks told MPR News.

For the moment, Fairbanks explained, White Earth will focus on opening their dispensary for sale of medical cannabis on Monday. White Earth Nation citizens voted to legalize the use of medical marijuana on reservation in 2020.

The new medical dispensary will be open to both tribal and non-tribal members.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

“It’s good not just for our constituents, but it’s good for all Minnesotans,” Fairbanks told the Minnesota Reformer, which first reported the move Friday.

The decision by White Earth follows a recent vote by Red Lake Nation to legalize adult-use recreational cannabis at a dispensary on the reservation.

White Earth Nation and Red Lake Nation will be the first to open dispensaries in Minnesota able to sell recreational use marijuana. Non-tribal dispensaries will have to wait at least another year before they can be licensed by the state. 

The chairman said White Earth may soon enter into agreements with other tribal nations across the state to supply them with cannabis products for retail.

Fairbanks also confirmed that White Earth, along with other tribal nations in Minnesota, are negotiating a compact with the state that would allow tribes to operate dispensaries off- reservation.

State law allows for compacts between the governor and 11 tribal governments around medical cannabis and adult-use recreational cannabis. Tribes may operate their own cannabis operations regardless of whether the state and tribes enter into an agreement.

Sponsors of the state law hoped that negotiations between state and tribal governments will proactively settle any jurisdictional issues and make sure that public safety and health are considered. For the tribes, those agreements could afford certain civil and criminal protections.