White Earth Nation Cannabis Code: A (Brief) Summary

The White Earth Band of Ojibwe is asking residents for feedback on a recently released draft of the nation’s Medical Cannabis Code.

This request comes just months after over 86% of the citizens of the nation voted to approve a regulated medical cannabis market.

“It’s exciting,” said White Earth Chairman Michael Fairbanks of the move following the vote in August, “Minnesota is getting really close to having recreational marijuana, so it’s good to get our foot out there and mark our spot.”

For those hoping to get a better idea of what a White Earth medical cannabis program would look like, this draft will leave you disappointed. While it does touch on the framework of the tribe’s new program, it leaves most of it up to the proposed Medical Cannabis Control Commission to decide later.

This 3-member commission will be responsible for overseeing the medical cannabis program, including writing regulations and licensing businesses and individuals. While independent from the White Earth Reservation Business Committee, the committee will appoint all members of the commission.  

Some notable regulations mentioned in the 20-page document include:

21+ Only – Unlike the State of Minnesota’s medical cannabis program, White Earth’s will only be accessible to those over the age of 21.

Excise Tax Likely – While the draft code doesn’t say much about fees or taxes, it does grant the Reservation Business Committee the power to impose an excise tax on the “sale or transfer” of medical cannabis. In other jurisdictions, this has ranged from anywhere from 7% to 37%. A recent proposal for adult-use cannabis in Minnesota set a 10% excise tax.

Concentrates & Edibles Allowed – Again the code is limited in detail, but it does allow for “Medicinal Cannabis extracts, and products that are infused with Medicinal Cannabis” in the program. It is up to the Commission to set standards for the safe production of such products.

Licenses for Business… And People – The draft code entrusts the Commission with licensing both businesses operating in the cannabis program and individuals that are owners, employees, or volunteers of any cannabis business. For those individuals, the application process is long, with applicants needing to provide information such as employment, criminal, and credit history and at least three references. According to the draft, the commission is supposed to contact each reference.

No Workplace Protections for Patients – Minnesota’s medical cannabis program has provisions to protect registered patients from being fired due to a failed drug test. The draft code does not prevent employers on the reservation from restricting the use of medicinal cannabis by employees, even when not in the workplace.

No Onsite Usage – While not super surprising, the draft code does not allow for any onsite consumption of medical cannabis. This means that we will not see any smoking lounges or coffee shops popping up on the reservation anytime soon.

Not Limited to Tribal Members – While not explicitly stated, we can assume from this code that patients will not be limited to only tribal members. One of the purposes of the program identified in the draft code is to “Ensure that seriously ill people throughout Minnesota and on the White Earth Reservation have the right to obtain and use Medicinal Cannabis for medical purposes”.

Once this code is adopted, the Medical Cannabis Control Commission will have 120 days to propose more specific rules and regulations for the program. After that happens, we’ll have a better idea of the application process and costs, as well as knowing who will be able to purchase cannabis once facilities start opening their doors.

While much is still up in the air, one thing is looking certain about White Earth’s medical cannabis program: it won’t be any more restrictive than Minnesota’s is now.

Those looking to provide public comment on the draft code can do so by emailing Leonard.Fineday@whiteearth-nsn.gov

Published by Tanner B

A Minnesotan dedicated to learning more about cannabis while educating others along the way. I focus primarily on education with an emphasis on career education for individuals unable to navigate traditional career and training programs. Email me: tanner@mncannabiscollege.com

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