Marijuana in Minnesota

Cannabis on the go: Red Lake Nation to offer mobile dispensary

Cannabis in jar
Cannabis is for sale at the NativeCare dispensary Aug. 1 at the Red Lake Nation, which will soon start its mobile dispensary.
Mathew Holding Eagle III | MPR News

Two weeks after becoming the first recreational cannabis dispensary in Minnesota to open its doors for business, the Red Lake Nation in northwestern Minnesota said it’s working on a mobile dispensary, which will resemble a food truck.

Once completed, Red Lake leadership said the unit will allow them to expand their cannabis business into other markets, but only on tribal lands.

Tribal Secretary Samuel Strong said he’s “very excited to see how the community will respond,” adding that they hope their marketing works “really well.” 

“Obviously, there’s some more security concerns that would be involved with a food truck, but very similar to that concept,” Strong said. “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.”

Strong said that since opening the on-reservation dispensary NativeCare they’ve been seeing about 300 customers a day and that for the most part, wait times outside the facility have been drastically reduced.

Business has been so good they’re now open on Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4:20 p.m. — four-twenty is slang among cannabis users referring to marijuana or the act of smoking.

Strong cheekily admitted the decision was “a great marketing ploy.” 

With the influx of new visitors to Red Lake, Strong said early concerns by some about inviting a criminal element onto the reservation have been unfounded. 

“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 Red Lakers’ perspective. And so that’s really a positive part is seeing that building those bridges, and cannabis is doing just that.” 

It could be another 12 to 18 months before dispensaries outside reservation boundaries are able to open while state officials work on putting a licensing system in place. 

Currently, Red Lake Nation has plans to open two more dispensaries soon near their casinos in Warroad, Minn., and Thief River Falls, Minn.

“We’re building that ‘Minnesota nice’ brand, and we’re doing it in a way that’s good for the tribe and good for cannabis consumers. And so that’s really encouraging to see that positive interaction,” Strong said. 

MPR News reporter Melissa Olson contributed to this story.