The Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe sold its first medical marijuana under the new state rules last week and did a brisk business the first few days.
The tribe’s Native Nations Dispensary opened July 1, the first day medical marijuana became legal in South Dakota. While the state hasn’t finalized its rules for the sale of the product, the tribe, because it is a sovereign nation, was able to start selling right away.
“It went really well,” said the tribes Attorney General Seth Pearman. “Sales are good.”
Sales are so strong in the early days of medical cannabis sales that the tribe has started working on a second grow facility to the south of the dispensary to keep up with demand, said Jonathan Hunt, the chief operating officer of the FSST Pharms, a wholly-owned, limited liability company operated by the tribe. The dispensary is south of the First American Mart along Veterans Street.
Some products sold out the first day, Hunt said.
“If we sell out, it’s OK. It has to be OK,” he said.
The business is a significant investment up front and will take time to recoup the money put into the grow facility and products. The first 11,000 square-foot building is about a $1.65 million investment, for example, Hunt said. It will take a year to get that investment back, and that doesn’t include the cost of staffing.
The business has hired 28 people so far and expects to grow to about 75 to 100 employees, Hunt said. A majority of the employees are tribal members.
In order to purchase medical cannabis, a customer must have a valid medical marijuana card, which also are available for $50 through the tribe and must be signed by a doctor.
Those who qualify would have to have a chronic or debilitating disease or medical condition that produces one or more of several symptoms that include severe pain, nausea, spasms, seizures and more. People also may qualify if a physician says they may benefit from the use of marijuana because of several conditions or diseases, including cancer, arthritis, migraines and more.
The dispensary is open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Ethan Dickson of Sioux Falls, and his girlfriend shopped at the dispensary on Friday. He suffers from depression and anxiety and learned in his youth that marijuana was one thing that helped him, he said.
“I think it’s fantastic,” he said of the availability of medical marijuana. “It’s just nice that I can get it now without having to worry about legal problems. I don’t have to worry about getting in trouble.”
The dispensary sells several different products in multiple flavors, including nectars, concentrates, vape cartridges, pre-rolls, flowers and more.
FSST Pharms, has been growing plants, harvesting buds and preparing for the sale of medical marijuana for months. The business also is looking for expansion opportunities in the state and has purchased the former Scrap Book Emporium building on West 41st Street in from of The Empire mall. The space will be used as a dispensary once the state gets its rules in place and also will sell items to help people grow plants at home.
The tribe also intends to sell recreational marijuana once the South Dakota Supreme Court rules on the legality of voter approval last November.
The tribe wants Native Nations Cannabis to become a national brand that includes other tribes, Hunt said.
“We’re looking to grow this across the country,” he said.