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First state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary opens in Hartford

Unity-Rd-Opening
Slater Dixon
/
SDPB
Medical marijuana patients wait to enter Unity Rd. dispensary in Hartford on its opening day.

South Dakota’s first state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary is open for business. Unity Rd. Dispensary in Hartford began selling to patients Wednesday afternoon. The business is co-owned by B.J. Olson and Adam Jorgenson.

“Today’s been an extremely emotional day,” Olson said. “This was a dream of ours four years ago.”

South Dakota legalized medical cannabis in 2020. Native Nations Cannabis has sold medical marijuana in Flandreau since July 2021, after asserting it's part of a sovereign Native American tribe not subject to state regulations.

But patients with cards issued by the state haven't had access to state-licensed products. It’s taken time for lawmakers to establish the program, and for cultivators to grow cannabis plants. Most growers’ product won’t be ready for shelves until this fall.

Olson says Unity Rd. was able to open due to a unique relationship with its cultivator, Dakota Natural Solutions Grow. The two businesses invested in buildings and infrastructure before they got the local licenses required to grow and sell cannabis.

“The moment that they got the license, they were able to drop seeds. The moment that we got our license and our building open, we were able to open up to our customers,” said Olson. “It’s about being prepared, and really being lucky. We’ve been really fortunate with the people who we’ve been doing business with in this industry.”

Olson and Jorgenson have both owned retail locations for mobile phone carriers, and they chose a similar model with Unity Rd. The company, based in Boulder, Colorado, offers franchising agreements for cannabis businesses. Olson said working in the industry has been different from his previous business experiences.

“There’s only certain banks that you can bank with, and none of them in the state, unfortunately. There’s only certain places that you can get insurance from,” he said. “Being able to operate and do business inside the laws that South Dakota has created for us is the thing that’s posed the most difficulty for us.

Olson said Unity Rd. sees itself as a pioneer in the South Dakota medical cannabis industry.

“We’re really doing our best to change the demeanor of how people perceive this product. And everyone’s just been told one side of the story, but there’s a whole back end of what the cannabis industry does for South Dakota, and a lot more dollars flowing into our state.”

Unity Rd. is currently just selling cannabis flower, but intends to sell edibles and concentrates in the coming weeks. To buy cannabis, patients must have a medical cannabis card issued by the state of South Dakota.

Slater Dixon is a junior at Augustana University studying Government and Data Science. He was born in Sioux Falls and is based out of SDPB's Sioux Falls studio.