Nevada: Paiute Tribe Breaks Ground For Medical Marijuana Dispensary In Las Vegas
By Steve Elliott
The Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, a federally recognized sovereign nation, on Monday announced plans for the development of a medical marijuana dispensary in downtown Las Vegas, with a cultivation/production facility and satellite dispensary at the Snow Mountain Indian Reservation in northwest Las Vegas.
The downtown dispensary will be located at the Las Vegas Paiute Indian Colony in downtown Las Vegas.
The project is a joint venture between the tribe and Ultra Health an Arizona-based company specializing in healthcare and cannabis products, with cultivation, production and retail centers currently operating in New Mexico and Arizona. Ultra Health has also worked with Native American tribes to maximize economic and cultural opportunities arising from the emerging cannabis industry.
Several states, over the past few years, have legalized the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes; Nevada did so in 2008. In August of 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a policy statement providing guidance to U.S. Attorneys on how to accommodate states' rights within the framework of federal law. In October of 2014, a subsequent policy statement was issued extending the same guidance to sovereign nations in Indian Country.
"In essence, the 2014 memorandum granted sovereign governments like ours the right to determine their own destiny with regard to medical cannabis," said Benny Tso, chairman of the Las Vegas Paiute Tribal Council. "Along with several other Tribes in the southwest, we began to explore what those opportunities might be, particularly because the people of Nevada and the state legislature have authorized the legal distribution and use of cannabis for medical purposes."
The Tribal Council spent more than a year evaluating whether the Paiute should participate in the new industry. "We met with experts in the field, toured several facilities throughout our region, consulted legal authorities and talked with local government officials to get feedback, advice and information," Tso said. "After that due diligence, we brought the information back to our membership who overwhelmingly voted to move forward."
The Main Street facility will include a 4,000-square-foot downtown retail dispensary and a 1,160-square-foot exhibition space. The Snow Mountain campus will include three cultivation greenhouses for a total of 84,000 square feet, a 10,000-square-foot production center and a 3,024-square-foot retail dispensary.
Construction of the project, with an estimated $5 million price tag, is expected to be completed in six to nine months. The facilities are expected to employ more than 50 workers upon opening and grow to more than 100 employees in the first year.
"Ultra Health is proud to have been selected by the Tribe to be its partner in this venture," said Duke Rodriguez, president and CEO. "They have insisted that every element, from structural design to landscaping and technological innovation, be of the highest quality so that it will be a model for other Indian nations interested in pursuing similar economic development programs."
As part of the Tribe's commitment to environmental responsibility, the cultivation facilities will be constructed with advanced clean greenhouse technologies that reduce the demand for electricity, eliminate the use of pesticides and conserve water through cutting-edge technology.
"We are proud of our heritage as the original caretakers of this land, and this project fits precisely within our own cultural background," said Tso. "It is about caring for the earth, caring for our people and our neighbors, and creating long-term sustainability. As a nation, it's what we stand for."
Graphic: New Cannabis Ventures