Minnesota Cannabis cooperative has high expectations
Minnesotans can now possess and grow their own cannabis, but it'll take at least a year for the industry to start evolving.
Minnesota became the 23rd state in the nation to legalize cannabis use for people 21 and older. But Aug. 1, when the law went into effect, was nothing more than one of several milestones written in the bill, as the state's cannabis players slowly progress forward in establishing a new industry.
Shawn Weber is the owner of Crested River Cannabis Co. in Morgan, Minnesota, and is president of the Minnesota Cannabis Growers Cooperative and Industry Council, formerly known as the Minnesota Hemp Growers Cooperative.
"With Minnesota's legalization of adult-use cannabis, the landscape is shifting, and we are uniquely positioned to foster collaboration and growth within the industry," Weber said of the rebranding of the cooperative, meant to reflect its goal of expanding opportunities.
Weber said the MCGCIC — which he called the only group of its kind in the state — is a response to there being no single resource for cannabis in Minnesota.
"We're ultimately trying to be that one-stop shop to streamline people's understanding, supply chain resources, just to build this industry," Weber said of the MCGCIC.
One of the nearly 50 MCGCIC's members include the Lower Sioux Indian Community near Morton, which is working to transform hundreds of acres of hemp into high-quality and environmentally-friendly homes by using hempcrete , a building material comparable to concrete.
Weber said he expects MCGCIC to grow with the influx of producers following the legalization, who are looking to connect with those familiar with supply chains, licensing and other aspects of the industry.
"There's room in the law to allow cooperative manufacturing, and so we've got a lot of members that are either producers, raw ingredient manufacturers, cultivators, that can be an asset to newcomers," Weber said.
In the end, Weber said MCGCIC is looking to resemble a traditional agricultural coop, but it will be cannabis specific.
"As soon as you say hemp or cannabis, your bank will most likely stop doing business with you, and any sort of financial support or resources that you have, most likely will completely go away," he said.
The other issue around cannabis and hemp is the stigma, Weber said, even after legalization. Marijuana remains classified as a Schedule I drug, which is the highest classification in federal law.
The legalization date this summer came and went for producers and operators in the cannabis industry, as they'll work to navigate the regulatory and business frameworks.
"We still have to appoint the Director of the Office of Cannabis Management, and we still have to create a set of rules around the application process," Weber said.
He said it'll be 12-18 months by the time applications start to be accepted and licenses are being issued.
In other states which legalized marijuana, a trend of high tax revenue and prices at the onset were followed with even bigger drops in both as a result of over-saturation in the new market. Weber thinks Minnesota will be a different story because it can learn from the mistakes of other states.
"It's our goal to create and set up this industry so that we don't have the volatility that we've seen in other states," he said. "It really comes down to if we can roll out this sustainable craft market that's focused on small users, and keep out the large corporations and the multi-state operators. Then we can make this industry whatever we want it."