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Red Lake Band could get into marijuana, industrial hemp business

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The Red Lake Band of Chippewa is the latest group looking into joining the marijuana business.

Medical marijuana becomes legal in Minnesota this summer. The federal government ruled last year Indian tribes could build their own marijuana enterprises to grow and sell without the same restrictions as state programs, according to the Star Tribune.

State regulations limit the number of dispensaries across the state and control who has access to the medicinal drug. While the tribes can set their own rules, the federal government will step in if they do not set up regulations to keep marijuana away from minors and criminal activity, the Star Tribune reports.

The marijuana and hemp industry is booming. The Star Tribune reports in the first year of Colorado's program, an estimated $58.7 million taxes and fees was earned from marijuana sales.

Red Lake does not allow the sale of alcohol, so talk of marijuana has raised some concerns on the reservation.

A member of Red Lake and marijuana advocate David Manuel tells MPR the business aligns with the tribe's cultural roots.

"We are Anishinaabe, we have a unique world view. Personally, I'm asked to go gather medicines for my elders and whoever is sick, out in the woods. These plants are medicine, and to not make these things available is criminal."

The tribal council voted to initiate a feasibility study of both industrial hemp and medicinal marijuana opportunities. WDAZ reports a referendum will bring the decision to voters.

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