FLANDREAU, S.D. (KELO) — The medical marijuana business in Flandreau continues to bloom. The Native Nations Cannabis dispensary opened in July with it’s attached cultivation laboratory facilities, and over the past few months has blazed a trail in the area of medical marijuana in South Dakota.
Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe (FSST) President Tony Reider says that business has been good. “It’s been great,” he expressed. “Business has been right on spot with where we projected it would be.”
Reider says the biggest change that’s occurred over the past few months is the construction which is still ongoing. “We had a big investment going in, not knowing really what was going to happen on July 1st, so we didn’t want to invest more than we already had,” he said. “Now [we’re] trying to play catch-up so to say a little bit.”
That game of catch-up is now one of Native Nations’ greatest challenges. “One of the biggest complaints that I would say we receive is the ability to only purchase an eighth [of an ounce] of flower,” said Reider. “A lot of people would like to purchase up to that full ounce at a time. The problem is it depletes our supply real quick.”
A remedy to the supply issue is currently underway however, with the Tribe in the process of renovating/building two additional cultivation facilities that once finished, will allow the dispensary to nearly triple their current production.
Reider says the new grow facilities should be online by summer of 2022, and will give the operation an estimated 30,000 square feet of growing space. “It’ll allow us to change some of our growing methods as well and get things spread out as they should with the different strains requiring different heats etc,” he said.
To Reider, the medical program is about more than business. “The real win that we’re seeing is the patients that it’s truly helping,” he said. “We’ve got people who have never tried cannabis before and they’ll come in and — some of the older generations — they talk about how they’re tired of the pills and still having pain and everything, and they’ve come back and really talked about the difference that it’s made in their lives.”
Reider says that looking forward, the FSST would like to come to an arrangement with the state to allow them to provide product to future state-licensed dispensaries. “We’d really like to push and try to figure out some type of solution or an agreement with the state that we could start providing people with medicine,” he said. “There is a strong need and after seeing first-hand how it helps people, I think it’s very important to try to get these people medicine as quick as possible.”
FSST Attorney General Seth Pearman is actively pursuing such an arrangement with the state.
The Tribe participated in the rule-making process with the South Dakota legislative inter-marijuana committees and the rules committee, and it was during that process that the Department of Health indicated that the Tribe may not be able to sell its products to state licensed facilities in the state, unless we were to license our facilities.Seth Pearman, Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe Attorney General
Pearman outlined the Tribe’s resistance to this idea, explaining that the view of the FSST is that the state has no regulatory authority over operations on Tribal land. “I’ve drafted a bill which is very similar to the rules promulgation process that we recommended, and hopefully we can get some legislative action that would clear that up for when the South Dakota market is ready for product.”
Pearman also addressed the issue of how the FSST got it’s marijuana in the first place. The founding of marijuana cultivation in a new state is legally murky due to the remaining federal ban on transportation and possession of cannabis and its products.
“Our facility, much like other facilities across the country start from seed which is imported,” Pearman explained. “A lot of other states have implemented policies that have sort of granted periods in which people can bring in product, and I would expect that’s what South Dakota would do too.”
Pearman points out that the federal government is also making allowances. “In section 531 of the 2021 consolidated appropriations act, the Department of Justice is precluded from enforcing medical marijuana laws as it pertains to certain states, and South Dakota is included in that, so I don’t think the federal government would have issue with that either.”
He also speculated on the reason that the process for beginning cultivation may be a little vague from the perspective of the state. “I think law makers are reluctant to draft a law that says here’s how you violate interstate commerce type provisions of the controlled substance act.”
Pearman says that looking forward, the Tribe hopes to expand their operation both on and off the reservation. “We’ll be doing some state-wide development of a few facilities,” he said. “We may pop up in somebody’s backyard that didn’t expect to have a Native Nations dispensary, and based on some of the conversations we’ve had with customers, they’re really open to it.”