Recap of legal recreational marijuana's first week in Minnesota

Recreational marijuana became legal on Tuesday, Aug. 1, in Minnesota. The legislation allows Minnesotans 21 and older to possess and use certain amounts of cannabis and cannabis products. Aug. 1 marked the following steps in Minnesota's legalization rollout:

First legal sales in Red Lake

The only place to legally buy marijuana on opening week is the NativeCare dispensary on the Red Lake Reservation in northern Minnesota, about 200 miles from the Twin Cities. On day one of recreational sales in Red Lake, hundreds of people showed up from all across the state. Some of them waited three hours or longer just to get inside.

"A great feeling of just joy, success for the nation here obviously to be opening the first recreational dispensary," said Red Lake tribal member Charles Goodwin, who made first ever legal recreational cannabis purchase in Minnesota.

Red Lake started growing medical-grade cannabis 2 1/2 years ago and Tribal Secretary Samuel Strong says they can grow enough to keep up with demand from across the state.

"Today is a monumental day," said Red Lake Nation Tribal Secretary Samuel Strong. "The war on cannabis was a war against people, so we’re trying to change that and create a safe space where people can get a tested product but also get revenue to our community to help with all the things we need here."

Aug. 1 celebrations in Minneapolis, St. Paul

Several places throughout the Twin Cities held legalization celebrations on Aug. 1, including a First Avenue block party that closed down a portion of 7th Street in downtown Minneapolis. 

"Everybody’s happy, they’re celebratory, it’s just great," said Amy Sligar, celebrating outside First Avenue. "It allows people to be themselves."

At a patio party at Potshotz on University Avenue in St. Paul, there was a healthy mix of excitement and relief.

"It's nice to be able to sit out here and just enjoy it," said Randy Schroeder, smoking a joint on the patio. "You know, during the past, you had to hide somewhere, or something. This is much better."

'Overwhelming demand' pauses online orders

Citing "an overwhelming number of online orders," NativeCare said it has made the decision to close its online store "to support the current number of orders that were placed in the last 48 hours." The retailer says it still has plenty of product. 

Second tribal dispensary opens in Mahnomen

The White Earth Nation opened its dispensary on Thursday, Aug. 3, at 850 East Adams Ave. in Mahnomen, about 35 miles north of Detroit Lakes on Highway 59.


Unlicensed sales shut down

A day before White Earth Nation opens its dispensary, authorities shut down cannabis sales at a tobacco shop on tribal land on Wednesday. The White Earth Nation says it is aware of the shutdown conducted by the Paul Bunyan Task Force, White Earth Police Department, and the Mahnomen County Sheriff’s Office.

KVRR in Fargo reports the shop that was raided is the Asema Tobacco and Pipe Shop, which is owned by a tribal member. In a Facebook post on Tuesday, the shop's owner advertised the cannabis sales, showing off three jars of apparent marijuana, while calling it a historic day for Minnesota.

In a statement, the White Earth Nation is reminding residents that while marijuana can be sold on tribal lands, businesses still need a license to conduct cannabis sales legally. On the White Earth Reservation, licenses are issued through the nation's cannabis control commission.


Plants seized from tent sale

The first day of legalization also saw some of the first enforcement of the law. Police in Faribault seized 22 suspected marijuana plants from a parking lot tent sale on Tuesday.

Officers investigated the incident as a violation of Minnesota’s newly enacted Marijuana statutes and seized the plants. No arrests were made.

"You can’t set up a tent sale in front of a retail business and sell cannabis plants – not yet anyway," said Faribault Police Chief John Sherwin.

However, Matt Little, who owns NuQanna, a hemp cultivation and manufacturing business, insists they were not marijuana plants, but rather "immature" hemp plants that contained THC levels below what’s required in hemp.

"This really sets the tone for Minnesota — how is Minnesota going to react with the people who love cannabis and the people who might be anti-cannabis or law enforcement who don't know the laws because of you know gaps in the law," he said.

FOX 9 sought clarification from the state's Office of Cannabis Management, which stated no retail sales are legal until they are licensed by that office.

"Sales of hemp and cannabis are treated differently under the law. MDA has the authority to regulate hemp cultivation and processing," a statement said. "Once fully operational, the Office of Cannabis Management will be responsible for regulating the legal adult-use cannabis market in Minnesota. Until then, no retail sales are legal (unless conducted by tribes on tribal land) until businesses are licensed by the Office of Cannabis Management."

What about the Minnesota State Fair?

The fair says it won't allow marijuana to be smoked on fairgrounds nor, like last year, will it permit the sales of THC and CBD products on fairgrounds.

While smoking pot is barred, edibles may be a different story. Last year, fair officials told FOX 9 visitors could carry the hemp-derived THC edibles, as they were not on the prohibited items list. As of now, the prohibited items section of the fair's website makes no reference to THC edibles.

Ventura Farms Cannabis Company?

Jesse Ventura is eyeing using his name and likeness to sell cannabis products.

"I want involvement in this, I want involvement in the state of Minnesota," Ventura told the audience at the Canna Connect conference. "Minnesota grown, Minnesota produced, and promoted by Minnesota governor — or former."

Next key dates for cannabis in Minnesota

  • Fall 2023, rulemaking begins for adult-use cannabis and lower-potency hemp products  
  • Fall 2023, Office of Cannabis Management director named 
  • Oct. 1, 2023, MDH registration deadline for businesses that sell products containing nonintoxicating cannabinoids derived from hemp (e.g., hemp-derived edible products and topicals) 
  • Early 2025, license applications anticipated for adult-use cannabis and lower-potency hemp product businesses  
  • First quarter 2025, first retail dispensary sales anticipated (outside tribal nations) 
  • March 1, 2025, MDH Office of Medical Cannabis (and Minnesota’s Medical Cannabis Program) moves to the Office of Cannabis Management.

Read the law for yourself

You can read Minnesota’s cannabis legislation here.