South Dakota is a small place, and the town of Flandreau is even smaller. About 2,400 people located 40 minutes’ drive away from Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city and de-facto cultural capital, Flandreau is the largest settlement on the Flandreau Santee Sioux Reservation — which at 2,356 acres of gently rolling plains near the Minnesota border, is the smallest Native tribal reservation in the state. But on the morning of July 1 — the day of the grand opening of the Native Nations Cannabis Dispensary, the first legal medical cannabis dispensary in the state as well as South Dakota’s first Native tribal cannabis business — Flandreau was possibly the most famousplacein the state. And as an example of what cannabis can do for Native tribes, Flandreau might have been the most important reservation in the country.
Through the grand opening over the July 4 weekend, the tribe registered about 1,000 patients, according to Seth Pearman, the tribe’s attorney general, all of whom were then free to shop at the dispensary. (More importantly: There was no repeat of 2015, when threats from law enforcement thwarted the tribe’s first crack at the cannabis business).
Elsewhere on the reservation, about 10,000 well-tended cannabis plants oozed terpenes in tribal grow houses, waiting for when harvest can net the tribe as much as $1 million a month — or maybe more, if the tribe also becomes the first adult-use cannabis dispensary within driving distance of Sioux Falls, as well asmuch larger cities like Minneapolis, about three and a half hours away.
With Native Nations Cannabis, the Flandreau Santee Sioux were not the first tribe to enter the marijuana industry. Native tribal cannabis businesses are in operation in California and Nevada, and with marijuana legalization sweeping the East Coast and the South as well as the West, tribes in places like Long