Las Vegas Paiutes Tribe Gets Into the Medical Marijuana Game
Native tribes are mixing business with tradition in cannabis cultivation.
Published on April 6, 2016

The legal cannabis industry is expected to bring more money to Sin City than casinos, and native tribes including the Las Vegas Paiutes are hoping to cash in.

With 43 million visitors to this region a year, it may just grow into one of the greatest cannabis markets in the United States.

Earlier this year, the tribe held a groundbreaking ceremony on Snow Mountain Indian Reservation to bless the site of their future medical marijuana cultivation and production facility.

The facility is slated to become one of the largest medical marijuana facilities in Nevada, with at least two dispensaries and three large greenhouses spanning several football fields in size.

The federally-recognized tribe already operates a golf course in the northwest valley and a smoke shop in downtown, making this five million dollar joint venture between them and Ultra Health, an Arizona-based company specializing in medicinal cannabis products, their third business endeavor.

If everything goes according to plan, the new facility will be open by the end of the year according to Benny Tso, chairman of the Las Vegas Paiute Council.

This venture wasn’t a hasty decision. The tribe spent over a year discussing their plans with government officials, lawyers and cannabis industry experts as well as making many visits to out-of-state medical marijuana dispensaries and farms. Ultra Health will help develop and manage the facilities, making this a lucrative opportunity that will help the development of the tribe. With fewer than 100 members, the tribe voted to carry out these plans with much enthusiasm which is something that would not have happened just a few short years ago.

In 2014, the United States Department of Justice issued a memo allowing Native American tribes to grow and sell cannabis on sovereign land. Ultra Health’s been busy discussing similar plans with at least 20 other tribes in three other states interested in using their sovereign nation status to enter the medical marijuana industry. While there has been much interest, it’s explored quietly in the states where medical marijuana is still not legal.

Gaining economic independence and self-sufficiency is of utmost importance, and it seems that joining the green rush will help make this a reality for the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe, especially since patients won’t have to travel to a far away location on the reservation for supply. All they’ll need to do is visit their convenient locations near town. Not to mention, Nevada was the first state to allow nonresidents with a medical marijuana card to purchase cannabis, so there should be plenty of potential customers heading their way.

They expect to create around 50 new jobs between all their facilities, and plan to grow that number to well past 100 as business booms. Tribal members will get first dibs on the jobs before looking outside the tribe for workers. Plus, the cultivation facilities will utilize advanced clean greenhouse technologies, reducing the use of electricity, conserving water and eliminating the use of pesticides.

The Paiutes’ entrance into the cannabis space isn’t the first for Native American tribes, and it won’t be the last with several tribes in expressing interest in the business. They hope to set the standard for how it’s done, to create a model for other nations interested in pursuing similar economic development programs by doing it in a way that cares for the environment and the community while upholding tradition.

Zoe Wilder
Zoe Wilder is a media relations professional and business consultant orbiting cannabis, tech, wellness, music, art, wine and spirits. For 17 years, Zoe has worked with hundreds of clients across a variety of industries to develop and execute inventive promotional content and campaigns that capture the attention of tastemakers and influencers from around the globe.
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