Marijuana legalization: Tribes could fill dispensary sales gap, Gov. Walz says

State licensing for retail cannabis sales are probably still at least 18 months away, but Gov. Tim Walz tells FOX 9 that legal sales could come a lot sooner within state boundaries.

Recreational marijuana is legal to possess, consume and even grow as of Aug. 1, but people in the industry have a running joke that any plants grown here would have to arrive by immaculate conception.

That might not the case if retailers start selling recreational marijuana on tribal lands.

Supporters cheered Gov. Walz earlier this week when he signed the new law allowing recreational cannabis use.

They marked their calendars for Aug. 1, when the law allows people over the age of 21 to have two pounds of pot at home, two ounces anywhere else.

The state Office of Cannabis Management will now coordinate everything cannabis.

"On the hour, as I signed the legislation, the website went live and so all the background is there, so it is going to just naturally take some time to put it in," the governor told FOX 9 in a one-on-one interview.

January 2025 is the target date for the first cannabis retail licenses to go active, leaving a big delay between legal consumption and legal sales.

That is, unless tribal governments fill the gap.

"My hope is to see them thrive in this industry," Gov. Walz said.

He said it’s quite possible tribal entities will beat Minnesota companies into the retail marketplace.

He toured a facility at White Earth Nation and called it a world class operation.

So while he says he doesn’t endorse marijuana use and advises his two kids against it, he thinks tribal governments understand one of the big ideas behind legalization was to eliminate black market marijuana moonshine.

"The issue here is we get some regulation over it," Walz said. "I'm deeply concerned about this stuff that's coming off the streets that's laced with fentanyl or xylazine or whatever it might be."

A few more notes from the interview, including on another topic involving tribal governments:

The governor said he expects the legislature to legalize sports betting next year after leaving it on the table this year.

And he wants to see more data, but he plans to get a bill passed next year protecting Uber and Lyft drivers after issuing his first veto on this year’s bill.

When asked about this being a pretty partisan session, Walz said he was disappointed but not surprised that they couldn't get Republican votes on popular items like red flag laws. But he did say Rep. Dean Erdahl, R-Grove City, worked across the aisle on bonding.

He’s still considering calling a special session to consider how to handle the proposed Fairview-Sanford merger, but waiting for the dust to settle on a leadership change at the University of Minnesota.

He’s been briefed on New York Times reporting about Allina cutting off clinic care to patients with debts, and says Minnesota’s healthcare system is better than most, but this is concerning and his team will "dive into that a little bit more." 

He will also be endorsing Joe Biden for president in 2024.