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Tribe Becomes South Dakota’s First Medical-Marijuana Seller

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Jordyn Henderson/SDPB
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Customers shop Thursday at Native Nations Cannabis in Flandreau.

 

Legal marijuana sales are happening in South Dakota for the first time, but it’s only for medical purposes and there’s only one place to shop so far.  

 

The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe is the first seller of medical marijuana in the state. Native Nations Cannabis is a tribal business that began sales Thursday. That’s the day a new, voter-approved state law legalizing medical marijuana took effect.  

 

Alex Tschetter is one of the first customers. He drove to Flandreau, 40 miles from his home in Sioux Falls.  

“I came here to get some medical marijuana – exercise my rights, I guess,” Tschetter said. 

 

More widespread sales of medical marijuana are stalled. That’s because the state Health Department is not ready to start issuing seller licenses and medical cards yet.  

 

The tribe has its own government and doesn’t have to wait for the state. So it prepared to open immediately when the new law took effect.  

 

Eric Hagen is the CEO of Native Nations Cannabis.  

 

“We've had more patients than expected,” Hagen said Thursday. “I think it's been a huge success for not only the tribe but also the state of South Dakota. I'm glad that we’re open.”  

 

The tribe requires patients to have a valid doctor’s recommendation. The tribe also accepts licenses from other states that have medical-marijuana programs.  

 

“We've been seeing a wide variety of tribal members, non-tribal members – every age group that you could think of has been through the doors today,” Hagen said. “It's been a good turnout.”  

 

The Highway Patrol has said it will not arrest people who possess no more than 3 ouncesof marijuana and have supporting documentation from a physician. But the patrol has indicated any South Dakotan with more than 3 ounces could be vulnerable to arrest until the state begins issuing medical-marijuana seller licenses and medical cards. In the meantime, the patrol says, a tribal card will only protect tribal members. 

 

Medical marijuana could become more widely available when the state begins issuing licenses and cards. The Health Department has said it will announce a process for that by the end of October.  

 

Meanwhile, a voter-approved measure to legalize recreational marijuana is tied up in a lawsuit.