Minnesota Tribal Nations Lead Recreational Marijuana Push as New Law Takes Effect

By Joseph-Charles Peeples-Hampton, Staff Writer | The Metro Scoop Student Newspaper | August 7, 2023

Minnesota’s cannabis landscape is undergoing a historic transformation as two tribal nations, White Earth Nation and Red Lake Nation, take the lead in opening the state’s first recreational marijuana dispensaries. With the new marijuana law now officially in effect, Minnesotans can legally possess and cultivate cannabis for personal use, while certain low-level marijuana offenses are being expunged.

The White Earth Nation wasted no time in embracing recreational cannabis after its council voted to legalize it. The nation is poised to commence recreational marijuana sales in early August 2023, making premium cannabis products available to both tribal members and non-tribal adults aged 21 and older.

Similarly, Red Lake Nation is gearing up to launch its own recreational marijuana dispensary, operated by NativeCare, shortly after the new law’s enactment. The tribe’s calculated timing underscores their commitment to responsible service.

While most legal retail sales are projected to begin only in early 2025 due to licensing and regulatory processes, the proactive actions of White Earth Nation and Red Lake Nation demonstrate their determination to spearhead the cannabis market’s development in the region.

Beyond Minnesota’s borders, the US is closely observing these tribal nations’ efforts to champion expanded marijuana access, marking a milestone for local communities and inspiring other states exploring cannabis legalization.

As Minnesotans celebrate their newfound freedom to possess and grow marijuana, the state is also addressing past marijuana-related convictions. The Adult-Use Cannabis Act now automatically expunges low-level marijuana-related arrests and misdemeanor convictions from the state’s Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) database, benefiting over 66,000 Minnesotans.

For individuals with felony convictions, The Cannabis Expungement Board, to be established later this fall, will determine eligibility for expungement or re-sentencing. The board’s creation aligns with the state’s commitment to removing barriers for those with cannabis-related offenses seeking employment or housing.

The state’s efforts towards expungement aim to rectify racial disparities in marijuana arrests and convictions that have been evident both in Minnesota and nationwide.

Additionally, the recently passed Clean Slate Act, effective from January 2025, expands the list of offenses eligible for petitioning the court for expungement, setting a process for the BCA to seal qualifying records from petty misdemeanor to felony offenses.

As Minnesotans embark on a new era of legalized recreational marijuana, the actions of White Earth Nation and Red Lake Nation stand as a testament to the transformative power of cannabis acceptance. The journey towards broader legalization and equal justice in the realm of marijuana continues, paving the way for a more equitable future for all.