On July 1, 2021, the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe opened South Dakota’s first medical cannabis dispensary. On November 3, 2020, South Dakota voters passed Measure 26, the Medical Marijuana Initiative, legalizing medicinal cannabis use in the state.
The new dispensary is located on the Flandreau Santee Sioux Indian Reservation, 40 miles north of Sioux Falls, SD. The business is owned by FSST Pharms, LLC, a company wholly owned by the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe.
“The grand opening of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe’s Native Nations Dispensary went very well, and customers have flooded the dispensary all day,” Flandreau Santee Sioux Attorney General Seth Pearman told Native News Online. “The Tribe is confident that the regulatory structure it put in place will create a safe product that will benefit customers.”
The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe (FSST) made national headlines after being the first tribal nation to legalize recreational cannabis. It was followed by the Department of Justice’s December 2014 memorandum stating that tribal governments may cultivate and sell marijuana as long as the states in which they are located have also legalized marijuana use.
As a result, the tribe converted a former bowling alley into a lounge where marijuana would be dispensed and consumed, as well as four rooms devoted to medical marijuana treatment. It was estimated that the lounge would generate $2 million per month.
Some viewed the opening as a test of the tribe’s sovereignty. However, some people in South Dakota are skeptical that residents will be targeted by law enforcement as long as cannabis remains illegal.
To complete each customer’s purchase, the tribe’s medical marijuana program, separate from the South Dakota Department of Health’s program, requires that each customer obtain a medical marijuana ID card. However, the office of Gov. Kristi Noem of South Dakota announced on Wednesday that state troopers would refuse to provide information about tribal-issued marijuana cards if requested unless it is for tribal members of the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe.
According to a recent press release issued by Gov. Noem’s Office, the nonresident card provision will apply as long as “the cardholder is an enrolled tribal member and presents an unexpired medical cannabis card” issued by their tribe. As per FSST Attorney General Pearman, if the Highway Patrol arrests non-tribal members who have a legal, medical marijuana ID card issued by the tribe, they violate South Dakota Codified Law Chapter 34-20G.
The framework unveiled by Governor Noem mandates that the South Dakota Highway Patrol (SDHP) personnel will not detain a South Dakota resident who is unable to deliver an unexpired medical cannabis card” as long as conditions were met: the individual possesses no more than three ounces of cannabis, the individual claims that the medical cannabis is to treat a debilitating medical condition (as defined by the Department of Health), and has documentation from a licensed medical doctor that confirms that the condition they claim to have is debilitating.
Since July 1, 2021, anyone who possesses three ounces or less of marijuana will no longer be pursued by law enforcement, regardless of their state-issued medical marijuana card.
“Even if you don’t have a medical marijuana card,” Minnehaha County Sheriff Mike Milstead told the Argus Leader on June 30. “The decision was made that on low level, low quantity offenses, it’s a waste of resources to try andenforce the very, very complicated version of medical marijuana that was passed by the voter,”
The Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe held a ribbon-cutting ceremony, combined with a prayer led by a tribal elder, followed by smudging, just before the new dispensary’s opening.
Another significant economic benefit of the new dispensary is that it would help the tribe meet budget gaps and expand its programming, according to FSST Attorney General Pearman.