PINE RIDGE, S.D. (KELO) — In 2020, the people of the Oglala Sioux Tribe voted to legalize both recreational and medical marijuana. Now, two years later the town of Pine Ridge with it’s population of just around 3,000 people, hosts four recreational marijuana dispensaries.
These four are Rez Budz, No Worries, Main Street Cannabis and Warpath Cannabis. A fifth dispensary is open across the reservation in Kyle.
To get a look at the growing industry, KELOLAND News traveled to Pine Ridge, where we spoke with the owners of two of the city’s dispensaries about the business, and the impact they feel it can have on their community.
“The tribe first approached us and had this idea of starting up dispensaries,” said Adonis Saltes, owner of No Worries, the first recreational dispensary on the reservation. “We talked to a lot of the officials and it was something we couldn’t pass up.”
Saltes also owns a restaurant and a real estate holding company in Pine Ridge. He says owning a dispensary in the community means a lot.
“We have a lot of different issues on the reservation — and through this new business venture, we’re creating hope — it’s not as traditional as it used to be. [Young people] like to know that you can make a living working in a dispensary and growing plants,” Saltes said.
No Worries has around 2,000 square feet of cultivation space, according to manager Ty Eagle Bull, and they are actively expanding as well. “Things have been really busy,” he said. “People are constantly coming through the door, and with us making public news and everything — especially from off-reservation, a lot of people have been coming.”
Within their existing cultivation space, Eagle Bull says they are growing around 40 strains. “We’re sticking to our 40,” he said when asked if they are looking to grow more strains. “Our big names are the Lilac Miso, Granddaddy Purp and our Gastro-Pop. A lot of people are coming in after those big names.”
Currently, No Worries is growing with a mix of soil crops and hydroponics, though Saltes said they are working toward moving to a fully hydroponic set up, which he hopes will help with scaling up production.
Increasing production is a priority for Saltes. “Our biggest challenge is inventory,” he said. “Keeping up with product and demand — flower and pre-rolls (pre-rolled joints) is our number one seller — but we can only make so much based off the square footage we have.”
It isn’t all hardship for Saltes however. “My favorite thing about the entire process is pretty much how quickly everything’s been growing,” he said.
That growth has been impressive as well. Unlike most large operations, No Worries does not have the hand of a professional grower guiding its cultivation. Instead, Saltes and Eagle Bull have relied on themselves and those close to them.
“It was a big learning curve,” Saltes said. “Our family has some arborists in it, so we kind of just took the basic plant science and applied it to cannabis.”
On the north end of town, Derek Janis, owner of Rez Budz, is in a similar boat. His is a family business run by himself, his wife, and their two children. Like the folks at No Worries, Janis has little experience in the world of marijuana cultivation. To level the field, he relies on a low-tech, but very effective cultivation method.
“We cultivate in tents,” Janis said. “I prefer tents because it’s a controlled environment, You can control the humidity, you can control the light, the temperature — you can control all that. For me, that’s way easier than having a great big building.”
While it is more simple, tent cultivation does have its limitations, and Janis acknowledges this. “We can’t grow hundreds of plant, but we’re starting out small. We’ll eventually get the bigger building — but I still prefer tents myself,” he said with a smile.
In order to compensate for the current growing limitations, Janis is working with three different cultivators. “They’re just great,” he said. “They’ve been treating us good — they’re giving us great prices that we can bring back to the community.”
Price is important to Janis, because he cares about access.
In addition to being a dispensary owner, Janis is also a former District President for Pine Ridge. He cares about the community and is well aware of the issues it faces.
“Meth’s a big problem — and fentanyl,” Janis said. “They’re actually finding marijuana that’s meth and fentanyl laces, so when you buy it on the street, you’re getting these things in the flower that you shouldn’t have.”
To Janis, regulated marijuana is a way to help avoid accidental exposure to dangerous drugs. “I’m doing my best to keep our prices low here at Rez Budz,” he said. “That’s a big thing here for us because we don’t want people to have to worry about ‘oh, do I have to go to a street dealer’.”
This concern of his is also reflected in Janis’ biggest challenge.
“I guess my biggest challenge is trying to stay open for the community,” Janis said. “A lot of community members want us open a lot later — a lot longer — we’re here for about 10 hours a day.”
Janis says that he hopes to be able to be open longer someday. “The street dealers; they don’t close,” he said. Currently, Rez Budz is open from 9 – 6 on Monday – Friday, and from 9 – 5 on the weekends.
Asked what the best part of the business is for him, Janis told us it’s the people.
“All the people that are happy,” Janis said with a grin and a laugh. “All the happy faces that come through — they’re really grateful for the things we’re doing — I tell them I don’t take the credit; I credit the Tribe for that.”