Minnesota’s White Earth Nation voted last Tuesday to fully legalize medical cannabis on the reservation. Now, all growing, regulating, and distribution will be allowed within the borders of the tribe as soon as they are able to get their distribution up and running.
The vote was approved at a nine-out-of-10 ratio, following in the footsteps of the Red Lake Nation, a Minnesota tribe who have already legalized medical cannabis back in May. Now, a medical cannabis program can begin on the reservation, paving the way for a strong entrepreneurial future and access to needed medicine.
“It’s exciting,” White Earth Chairman Michael Fairbanks said. “The membership has spoken and it’s overwhelming.”
Indigenous Communities And Cannabis
Minnesota tribes are able to get into the cannabis industry ahead of their entire state as members of the Indigenous community, since they govern their own nations. Governor Tim Walz has expressed support of medical and recreational cannabis and a desire to legalize more in coming years, but right now, the tribes will have much looser restrictions than the state as a whole, as Minnesota still does not allow medical cannabis to be smoked or ingested. Only pills, powders, and lotions are medically legal in the state currently, and the state is very restrictive about what they prescribe and why.
Luckily, White Earth Nation will not have to jump through these hoops. This is because as sovereign nations, the tribes don’t have to follow state laws on medical cannabis. This also means they can expand beyond the two distribution companies currently allowed in Minnesota, Leafline Labs and Minnesota medical Solutions. And, it gives the tribes more control over what people can be prescribed cannabis for. White Earth will have control over who produces the cannabis and who is eligible to use it for medicine, as well as how they choose to regulate and operate the inner workings of their industry.
“Minnesota is getting really close to having recreational marijuana, so it’s good to get our foot out there and mark our spot,” Fairbanks said.
While it’s too soon to tell when the medical cannabis program will be up and running, farmers on the White Earth reservation already grow hemp, so the switch should be somewhat seamless for those looking to branch into a new cash crop. However, they still need to work out all the details of the new program, who will be able to grow, and what it will allow.
This will also give the tribe a head start if cannabis finally gets legalized in Minnesota. While the state has seen a lot of legal cannabis support from Minnesota voters, and Walz has expressed that he would legalize recreational cannabis if he gets a bill on his desk, many fear the Republican-held Senate would never pass such a bill.
While cannabis is still illegal federally, and legal medical cannabis is still slowly coming to the tribes of the state, there is no doubt that White Earth Nation and Red Lake Nation will have a leg up on the competition when full legalization finally takes hold.