Marijuana in Minnesota

Recreational cannabis sales begin at White Earth Nation dispensary

Strains of recreational cannabis in jars with labels
A display case of marijuana strains available for purchase on Thursday, the first day of recreational marijuana sales at the tribal dispensary in Mahnomen, Minn., on the White Earth Nation.
Mathew Holding Eagle III | MPR News

After some early morning confusion Thursday that saw a few people turned away at the White Earth dispensary, Waabigwan Mashkiki, and a last minute tribal council vote, the White Earth Nation became the state’s second reservation to begin selling recreational cannabis. 

“I think it’s a great day for us and I think that with this opening up, opening up many doors for White Earth Nation for economic development and its constituents and creating jobs, I think it’s a good day for White Earth,” Chairman Michael Fairbanks said. “Hopefully we get more and more people to come over and try our product.” 

Fairbanks added their cannabis has been tested and is safe to use. 

Person speaks into mic with symbol behind
White Earth Nation Tribal Chairman Michael Fairbanks outside the tribal dispensary in Mahnomen, Minn., on the first day of recreational marijuana sales there on Thursday.
Mathew Holding Eagle III | MPR News

The move comes just two days after Red Lake began offering its recreational cannabis — and only six days after the White Earth Council approved the recreational program. White Earth approved medicinal cannabis in 2020 and has been developing its growing program for over a year.

A small business owner who would only identify himself as Earl said it was not only a great day for the state but the entire U.S., too. 

“It’s about time this is starting to happen. I’ve been a cannabis user for many years, and we don’t need to have the low-end drug users, drug offenders being put behind bars over stuff like this,” Earl said. “Cannabis has so many more benefits than many other drugs out there. And it's so much more just, in a general safety factor, safe. You know, I choose to do this over drinking.” 

All the cannabis sold by White Earth is grown locally about 100 yards behind the dispensary in what locals refer to as the “old potato-chip factory.” A 30,000 square-foot facility which includes two flower rooms, a nursery and a closed room, two drying rooms, a processing room and a vault. 

The dispensary’s general manager, Alexander Oxendine, said White Earth’s goal is to reach “1,000 pounds a month.” 

“The problem is people are saying Red Lake is in competition with White Earth or vice versa and that’s absolutely not the truth,” Oxendine said. “I wish them the best. And I would help them out if I can do anything for them and I’m sure they would do the same for us.”  

Person holds up piece of paper outside
Alexander Oxendine, General Manager of the Marijuana program at White Earth holds up the certificate issued by the White Earth Cannabis Commission authorizing the operation outside the tribal dispensary in Mahnomen, Minn., on Thursday.
Mathew Holding Eagle III | MPR News

Oxendine said based on the math there’s no way either tribe’s supply will meet the demand he anticipates in the long run so, “if neither of us can fill the void how is there competition?” 

Unlike in Red Lake, White Earth is charging a 10 percent tax on purchases, however, for medicinal customers and elders the tax is waived.