The first—and, for now, only—recreational marijuana shop in Minnesota opened its doors on Tuesday. And the demand was intense, with the business so overwhelmed that it had to turn customers away at the store and also temporarily suspended online orders to keep up.
The Red Lake Nation tribe was quick to take advantage of a unique feature of the state’s legalization law, which went into effect on Tuesday, and launched its storefront in Red Lake well before traditional retailers are expected to start being licensed by state regulators.
Some people travelled hours (Red Lake is a 3-4 hour drive from Minnesota’s major cities) and lined up outside the NativeCare shop amid scattered rainstorms to be some of the first to participate in the state’s legal market. By the end of the day, the business said it served more than 300 customers and needed to turn people away around 3 PM local time so that they could “be sure to serve everyone that has been patiently waiting.”
On Wednesday, the shop announced that it was suspending online orders due to the “overwhelming” number of purchases that were being made and the need to make sure orders from the past 48 hours were fulfilled.
For now, Red Lake Nation is the only tribe that’s lawfully selling cannabis in Minnesota. But the White Earth Nation tribe is expected to quickly follow, with its governing council voting to authorize marijuana sales last week.
While the possession and cultivation of cannabis for adults 21 and older is now legal as of Tuesday, state-licensed retailers aren’t expected to come online until 2024 at earliest. Former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura said last week that he wants to get in on the action, too, and become the “first major politician in America” to have his face on a marijuana brand.
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The law also formally created the Office of Cannabis Management (OCM), which launched last month. It will be the primary regulatory body that will oversee the market and for which the governor is actively seeking an executive director.
Another body that has been instituted is the Cannabis Expungement Board, which will facilitate record sealing for people with eligible marijuana convictions on their records. The review process for eligible cases commenced on Tuesday.
Even before Walz signed the reform bill, the state launched a website that serves as a hub for information about the new law. Officials have also already started soliciting vendors to help build a licensing system for recreational marijuana businesses.
For those adults interested in consuming cannabis now that it’s legal, it should be noted that the law makes it illegal to smoke or vape marijuana in a multifamily housing building such as an apartment, even if it’s outdoors on a balcony or patio. The penalty for violating the law is a $250 fine.
There has also been some confusion around the policy for underage marijuana possession. While it was the bill sponsors’ intent to remove criminal penalties for the activity, it recently came to light that people under 21 who are caught possessing cannabis could face a default petty misdemeanor under statute that was not revised by the legalization law. Still, GOP lawmakers have requested a special session to codify criminalization for underage possession and to address what they say are other “glaring issues” in the law.
A separate Minnesota law also took effect on Tuesday that legalizes drug paraphernalia possession, syringe services, controlled substances residue and testing.
Photo courtesy of Chris Wallis // Side Pocket Images.