In the beginning of August, two Minnesota tribes opened dispensaries on reservations in the state. Right after this happened, Minnesota police performed a raid on a dispensary operating on tribal land. This time around, it was the state and the tribe working together, though; not one vs the other. Read on for more details.
Tribal dispensaries recently announced in Minnesota
Minnesota had a weird year with weed, which culminated in an adult-use legalization as of August 1st, 2023. Between then and May 22nd, 2022, the state had a partial legalization subsequent to government passed legislation to legalize hemp-derived THC in edible products. The plan now is for a full market, but markets take time to prepare; and Minnesota is looking at a year or more before anything actually opens. That means a year or more until residents see legal dispensaries, or until the government starts making money from taxes.
Right now, the state is legal for possession and use; but there’s no formal regulation yet to govern sales. This works for Native American populations that don’t require this regulation, as they operate under tribal sovereignty. This sovereignty was backed up in 2013 with the Cole and Wilkinson Memos, which ended federal regulation of cannabis on these reservations. Now, dispensaries are popping up all over the country run on tribal property, by tribal governments; and they’re doing pretty well because they don’t have to adhere to US government instituted regulatory fees and taxes.
A couple of Minnesota’s local Chippewa tribes recently announced that they had plans to open dispensaries on tribal land. The Red Lake Nation independently legalized the recreational use and sale of cannabis on July 25th of this year, and announced plans to open its first recreational dispensary once the state changeover came in August.
Three days later, on July 28th, the White Earth Nation Tribal Council also legalized recreational possession and sale, with similar plans to open dispensaries; starting with a medical one in early August. These tribes are able to set these laws due to their own tribal sovereignty.
What is tribal sovereignty?
Tribal sovereignty refers to the autonomy of Indian nations over themselves, and ability to govern themselves as independent countries outside of US federal or state laws. This has been argued many times, and repeatedly backed up, while also being repeatedly undermined. It exists in the constitution, and was better defined due to Supreme Court cases like Worcester v. Georgia and Bryan vs. Itasca County.
Yet until the Cole Memo in 2013, the US government regulated cannabis on reservations, regardless of this stated independence. Plus, existing laws like the Gaming Regulatory Act also keep the federal government involved in regulation, which challenges how much the US government backs up its own stated stance of tribal sovereignty. These detractions mean the sovereignty is not 100%, and all independence is a result of a decision to allow it by the US federal government.