Tribe projects include cannabis


May 3, 2024

Brady Slater

A new warehouse serving the Fond du Lac Band's health care needs sits on 18-plus acres along Jolicuer Road near the Cloquet Carlton County Airport. Site preparation on the property includes the addition of utilities. The Band said the site is being cleared "for future tribal infrastructure."

A renovated hotel and casino, a new tribal justice center and a cannabis facility near the intersection of Minnesota Highway 210 and Interstate 35 are among the projects in development by the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa.

The cannabis facility follows the direction of three other tribes - the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, and Red Lake and White Earth nations - since marijuana was legalized in the state in August 2023.

Caleb Dunlap, spokesman for the Fond du Lac Band, declined to comment on the cannabis project.

A request for proposals issued by the Band in November called for "professional services from qualified design consultants for the development of a cannabis grow facility, located on the Konzac property near the 210 and I-35 intersection, Carlton."

According to Carlton County land records, the property is 86.5 undeveloped acres in Twin Lakes Township located on land behind the Kwik Trip in Carlton. The Fond du Lac Band owns several properties along the Highway 210 corridor near Black Bear Casino Resort.

So far, no work has been done at the cannabis facility site. But the project was brought up in February at the State of the Band address held at Black Bear's Otter Creek Convention Center.

Rob Abramowski, secretary/treasurer for the Band, described cannabis as a way to diversify income streams, so the Band is not so reliant on gaming.

"We're going to be doing a grow operation and probably retail and possibly manufacturing," Abramowski was quoted as saying in the March edition of the Band's newspaper, Nagaajiwanaang Dibaajimowinan.

Despite "promising" financial projections, Abramowski described the venture as a risk, particularly in its messaging to tribal youth.

"I was apprehensive at first, because I didn't know how that's all going to affect our kids," he told a crowded event hall, the newspaper reported. "But in a way, we were kind of forced into it, because if we didn't do it somebody else would and we needed to take advantage of that."

The Band has not been in coordination with the Minnesota Office of Cannabis Management, the state office confirmed. While tribes can enter into "compacts" with the state to "enhance public health and safety" related to legal cannabis, it is not a requirement.

"As sovereign nations, tribes determine how they want to regulate and oversee businesses - including cannabis businesses - on their land," the state office states on its website. "The state of Minnesota does not have jurisdiction to regulate tribes. Minnesota's cannabis law is among the strongest in the nation to honor and recognize tribal sovereignty and the authority of Tribal Nations to make decisions about cannabis sales on tribal land."

Other projects

The Band continues to develop 18.7 acres on Jolicuer Road, near the Cloquet Carlton County Airport.

A 6,000-square-foot warehouse already built on the property will serve the Band's nearby Min No Aya Win Human Services Center, and its assorted clinics, which provide medical, dental, behavioral health, social services and a pharmacy on the reservation.

But the remainder of the property is being outfitted with utilities and the site being prepared for a future project.

When asked about the property and work being done, Dunlap told the Pine Knot, "At this time, the Fond du Lac Band would like it to be known that the land next to the warehouse is being cleared for future tribal infrastructure."

Among the possibilities are a new police station and justice center. Requests for proposals published on the Band's website noted in January that the Band was "looking for bids on a construction project for the new Fond du Lac Police Station building."

Another request for proposals, from last October, sought bids for "the FDL Tribal Justice Center - Phase 1 construction project."

DSGW Architecture, of Duluth, is working with the Band on the police station/justice center.

Another project is the ongoing renovation of Black Bear Carino Resort in Carlton. The tribal newspaper reported last year that hotel work had started.

"The remodel or refresh of the Black Bear Hotel is now underway," the newspaper's Wally Dupuis wrote. "They are working one floor at a time starting with the top floor."

The upgrade includes "painting, carpeting, some new furnishings, and wallpaper upgrades."

The expansion of the convention center is also part of the project. It's being designed to improve weekday gaming and bring larger conventions to the facility, the newspaper said.


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