We all know the USA used to be populated by native Indians. As the white man stole their land so the government set aside reservations for them. South Western Nevada was no different. One prominent local tribe is The Las Vegas Paiute and they have just hit the news again. They already run a smoke shop Downtown and a golf course in the northwest valley. Now a third business venture — in medical marijuana — is on the horizon for them.
If construction goes as planned, the federally-recognized tribe are on course to open two medical marijuana dispensaries and a cultivation and production facility by the end of the year. The tribe has apparently partnered with Ultra Health, an Arizona medical marijuana company, to develop and manage the businesses. The roughly $5 million construction project is expected to take six to nine months. A 4,000-square-foot dispensary is planned for the 30-acre downtown colony, near Main Street and Washington Avenue. A second dispensary, as well as greenhouses and a production center, will be built at the tribe’s Snow Mountain Reservation in the northwest valley.
The U.S. Department of Justice issued a memo in late 2014 paving the way for American Indian tribes to enter the legal weed industry by allowing marijuana to be grown and sold on sovereign land. The memo sparked considerable interest among tribes, although many have explored the possibility quietly, especially in states where medical marijuana remains illegal. After the Las Vegas Paiutes’ tribal council and members approved a medical marijuana venture, the council drafted a “robust and compliant formal ordinance” that mirrors Nevada law regarding medical marijuana. The 56-member tribe then issued a license to Ultra Health to operate medical marijuana businesses on the tribe’s sovereign land.
Ultra Health and the tribe will share revenue generated by the businesses. The Las Vegas Paiute Tribe was thought to be a natural fit for the medical marijuana business, given its urban location. Medical marijuana patients can drive downtown to buy the tribe’s product rather than trek to a remote reservation. Likewise, the tribe’s planned dispensary at Snow Mountain isn’t far from Las Vegas’ suburban sprawl. Another potential client base is medical marijuana patients visiting Las Vegas. Nevada was the first state to grant nonresident reciprocity, meaning medical marijuana cardholders from other states can buy pot here legally.
The Paiutes’ entry into the marijuana market isn’t a first among Native American tribes and likely won’t be the last. Several tribes in Washington, where recreational marijuana is legal, have entered into a agreement with the state to grow and sell pot. Based on surveys showing how many people use marijuana it is believed that demand may be large enough to make tribes’ new business opportunity more profitable than gaming.