By Larissa Donovan

Flipping the Script: Red Lake Nation opens doors to recreational cannabis


August 4, 2023

Lorie Shaull / Special to KAXE Charles Goodwin, who made the first legal purchase spoke with media before entering the dispensary.

As recreational cannabis became legal in Minnesota, Red Lake Nation opens doors for recreational sales.

RED LAKE- Hundreds of people waited in a slow-moving line outside NativeCare, Red Lake Nation's official cannabis dispensary. It is considered the first to open for recreational sales in the state of Minnesota.

The Red Lake Tribal Council authorized NativeCare to transition from a medical cannabis dispensary to adult-use recreational.

The medical dispensary began making its first sales earlier this year, with the Tribal Council voting last month to open the dispensary to adult-use recreational sales on Aug. 1.

The first recreational customer served was Charles Goodwin, a Red Lake Band member who works in building maintenance for Oshkimaajitahdah.

Oshkimaajitahdah operates as a workforce and economic development engine for the tribe, overseeing 20 programs on and off the reservation, including overseeing the cannabis development project over several years.

The end of prohibition, the end of this war on drugs that was really meant to oppress minorities, so it's only fitting that the Native American tribes are participating in this industry.

Sam Strong

Executive Director of Oshkimaajitahdah Jerry Loud said from seed to sale, the NativeCare cannabis operation is completely in-house, and NativeCare's launch in Red Lake is just the first step.

"This is going to be a major economic driver for the nation," said Loud.

"We're going to continue to expand and as we get this right, we're going to go to Thief River Falls and then we're going to be up in Warroad."

The Red Lake Band holds trust lands in Thief River Falls and Warroad, where the Seven Clans Casinos operate.

Red Lake Tribal Secretary Sam Strong has long supported recreational marijuana sales for the band.

"I think it's been a long time coming, you know, not only for the tribe, but for the state," said Strong.

"The end of prohibition, the end of this war on drugs that was really meant to oppress minorities, so it's only fitting that the Native American tribes are participating in this industry."

"We've been harmed most by the War on Drugs," continued Strong.

"Now it's time to flip that script and create an economic development venture that can help heal our community."

Lines were long and people were committed to keeping their spots, even during a storm that swept through Red Lake. Strong was on site at NatvieCare all day, assisting customers in the rain.

Now it's time to flip that script and create an economic development venture that can help heal our community.

Sam Strong

At NativeCare, which is the only tribal council-sanctioned dispensary, six customers are allowed in at a time to make their purchases from numerous strains of cannabis flower, pre-rolls or joints, as well as hemp-derived edibles available for sale.

Customers waited in line for at least two hours, some driving three hours to take advantage of the first official recreational cannabis dispensary in the state.

"Yeah, it's pretty exciting," said RJ Greenfield, who drove from Becker to get to the Red Lake Nation hours before NativeCare opened their doors to customers around 11 a.m.

"You know, just to get some legal weed and not have to worry about, you know, where it came from or what's going on with it."

NativeCare is not the only dispensary operating on the Red Lake Nation.

A handful of independent dispensaries announced online and on social media that they are also open for business within the Reservation, including one just past what's known as "The Cutoff" on the eastern shores of Lower Red Lake.

David and Laura Manuel operate the Rezpensary and have sold cannabis for years before Minnesota's new law was in effect, using high-quality products from other legal states, in tamper-proof packaging.

The Manuels describe their small business as a cannabis-based apothecary, to offer products in a wide range of prices for their customers.

"Here, we enter another phase of this brand-new industry," said David Manuel.

Laura Manuel said she began using cannabis after her diagnosis with non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a blood cancer, which helped her manage with chemotherapy. Manuel is now two years into remission.

"It helps with the pain, it helps with sleep, and most importantly with chemo, it helps you eat," she said.

Visitors to the Red Lake Nation should familiarize themselves with tribal law.

For instance, natural resources, including waters within the Reservation, are off limits to non-band members, unless they are working for the benefit of the tribe.

Lorie Shaull / Special to KAXE Different strains of cannabis that are available for purchase are displayed in a case at NativeCare.

State law also applies an equivalent open container law when transporting cannabis in a vehicle. Opened containers of cannabis should be stored in the trunk or rear of a vehicle where there aren't occupants.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety launched a "Driving High is Still a DWI" campaign, with marijuana users encouraged to use common sense and avoid consuming cannabis before getting behind the wheel.

NativeCare is open from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays.

Larissa Donovan has been in the area's local news scene since 2016, joining the KAXE newsroom in 2023 after several years as the News Director for the stations of Paul Bunyan Broadcasting.


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