By Grace Birnstengel / MPR News
Recreational marijuana becomes legal in Minnesota in under two weeks. Beginning Aug. 1, people 21 and older can possess, use and grow cannabis in limited amounts. Purchasing marijuana, on the other hand, is a bit more complex – at least for now.
Here’s what we know:
When will Minnesota’s first recreational dispensaries open?
People can legally use cannabis in Minnesota beginning Aug. 1, but dispensaries outside of tribal reservations (more on that below) won’t open for at least another year — some estimate in early 2025. Dispensaries can’t open until the state figures out a licensing system for the businesses.
Where will the first recreational cannabis dispensary be?
Tribal governments don’t have to wait for the state’s licensing system to open dispensaries. The first recreational marijuana dispensary opens Aug. 1 on the Red Lake Nation in north central Minnesota.
Minnesota’s 11 Native American tribal nations are sovereign, meaning they can operate independently from state laws and regulations.
The Red Lake dispensary is called NativeCare and has been providing medical marijuana to band members and non-members since April.
The dispensary will expand to selling recreational cannabis on Aug. 1, and anyone 21 and older will be able to shop there. According to the dispensary’s website, the shop is currently only accepting cash, but working on getting set up for other payment options.
The Red Lake Nation requests that visitors are respectful to the people of Red Lake and their lands.
Is it possible other tribal nations will also open recreational dispensaries before the state opens their first dispensaries?
It’s definitely possible that other tribes will get into the recreational business sooner than later.
Along with Red Lake, the White Earth Nation voted in favor of legalizing medical marijuana on their reservation in August 2020. The band hasn’t publicly stated if it will open for recreational sales, but the Star Tribune reports that the reservation’s business committee recently approved a draft of adult-use cannabis rules for band members to review.
Last year the Leech Lake Tribal Council sought out feedback from its tribal members on selling hemp-derived THC edibles and beverages that were legalized in the state. Tribal spokesperson Michael Chosa told the Star Tribune that band members who responded were largely in favor of this. The Tribal Council unanimously voted in October to approve the resolution authorizing the sale of hemp-derived edibles at Leech Lake businesses. It is not yet clear if the tribe will also pursue selling cannabis or cannabis-derived products.
In January the Bois Forte Tribal Council announced it would start getting into the edibles business by opening a smoke shop at its Fortune Bay Resort Casino. The shop currently sells THC products derived from hemp and is open Thursday through Sunday.
Is Minnesota taking longer than other states to get dispensaries up and running?
Delaware was the other state to pass a law legalizing recreational cannabis in 2023. WHYY reports that dispensaries in Delaware can’t get licensed until at least September 2024. Gov. John Carney will first appoint a marijuana commissioner who will then set up an office, create regulations and issue licenses, similar to Minnesota.
Things progressed faster in other states like Maryland and Missouri, which also legalized recreational use in recent years. Voters in Maryland approved recreational cannabis in November 2022 and Gov. Wes Moore signed licensing legislation in May that went into effect July 1. Existing medical marijuana dispensaries in Maryland are able to convert their licenses to allow recreational sales, which began this month. Missouri approved recreational cannabis legalization at the same time as Maryland and began licensing dispensaries just months later.
Will the two current medical marijuana growers pivot to also sell recreational?
This has been the case in other states, but it’s currently unclear if or when Minnesota’s two medical-marijuana providers – Leafline Labs (RISE) and Vireo Health of Minnesota (Green Goods) – will enter the recreational business. It’s also not clear if the two medical cannabis providers will be able to get licensed faster or easier than new companies.
Will my city get a dispensary?
Possibly. Local municipalities are allowed to temporarily restrict recreational marijuana sales until Jan. 1, 2025. Brooklyn Center, East Grand Forks, Mankato, Ramsey and West St. Paul already passed restrictions. Some Duluth City Council members said they plan to do the same.
I want cannabis ASAP. What are my options?
Besides making a trip up to Red Lake, you can grow your own, or acquire it from someone else who is growing. Beginning Aug. 1, Minnesotans can have up to eight cannabis plants at home and can give each other cannabis for free (selling without a license remains illegal).
Minnesotans can also still sign up for medical marijuana, and as of July 1 the program is free – there is no longer an enrollment fee collected annually. Cancer, chronic pain, sleep apnea and PTSD are a few of the qualifying conditions.
Are hemp-derived THC products going away or becoming illegal?
According to the new law, Minnesotans will still be able to use and sell the hemp-derived THC products that became legal in 2022. In fact, the law now lets liquor stores sell hemp-derived edibles.
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