Las Vegas Sun

December 14, 2017

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Weed industry:

Tribal pot store near downtown Las Vegas aims to be biggest in the country

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L.E. Baskow

A T-shirt shows the logo of the Nuwu Cannabis Marketplace, which is set to become the largest marijuana store in the U.S. by retail space when it opens in September.

Nuwu Cannabis Marketplace

Paiute Tribal Chairman Benny Tso speaks about the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe's coming venture, their new 15,800 square-foot Nuwu Cannabis Marketplace set to be the largest in the U.S. by retail space when it opens in September on Tuesday, August 1, 2017. Launch slideshow »

The boom from legalized recreational marijuana in Nevada is about to get even bigger, thanks to a massive store set to open early next month near downtown Las Vegas.

With 15,800 square feet of retail space, Nuwu Cannabis Marketplace, located on tribal land, will be the largest standalone retail marijuana facility in the U.S., according to its owners.

“We’re pretty sure this is bigger than anyone here will have ever seen,” Las Vegas Paiute Chairman Benny Tso said. “We want to raise the bar on the cannabis industry, and we want the industry to come with us.”

The store, whose name translates to “the Southern Paiute people," is on a 2.5-acre parcel next to the Las Vegas Paiute Tribal Mini Mart, 1225 N. Main St., north of Washington Avenue.

It was designed with recreational buyers in mind, Tso said.

A 168-foot checkout desk featuring 13 point-of-sale locations was installed to serve customers efficiently and reduce waiting time. A separate merchandising desk will handle credit card purchases for nonconsumable weed paraphernalia products such as bongs and pipes.

Tso characterized the store as a “marketplace,” not a dispensary, because of the high volume of customers it is designed to serve. Developers of Nuwu Cannabis Marketplace said they’re planning for up to 2,500 customers daily. Nuwu’s hours of operation and opening date will be determined later this month.

“It’s different here because customers will come in knowing what they want to get,” Tso said. “You get in and get out and, hopefully, enjoy the experience too.”

Tribal art with “water walls” on either side of the store and “a little bit of sound on each side” will be featured, said Kevin Clock, representing tribal investing partner Cascade Strategic Investments. Large glass windows on the southeast side of the store will offer shoppers a view of the downtown skyline.

Tso said he expects the marijuana market to become an "economic driver” for the 56-member tribe. Nuwu will hire 100 employees during its first months of operation, he said, offering positions first to tribe members and then taking applications from the public.

Nevada legalized up to one ounce of marijuana flower or up to one-eighth ounce of the THC equivalent of concentrates for recreational use and possession on Jan. 1 following the passage of November’s Ballot Question 2. Recreational sales of the plant began on July 1 after temporary regulations from the Nevada Department of Taxation and Nevada State Legislature were approved earlier this year.

Senate Bill 375, passed by the 2017 Legislature, opened the door for legal negotiations on the use and sale of marijuana on tribal lands. It also allowed the governor’s office to bypass federal laws that limit commerce talks between tribes and Congress. That bill was signed into law on June 2, and a compact between Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office and the Las Vegas Paiutes for the new pot store was signed by the Nevada governor on July 18.

“This is going to be one for the books,” said state Sen. Tick Segerblom, who sponsored SB375. “It’s going to be huge.”

This week’s exclusive announcement to the Las Vegas Sun and exclusive tour of the new facility comes 18 months after the tribe broke ground on a 3,000-square-foot medical marijuana dispensary in the same area, an 84,000-square-foot cultivation facility and 10,000-square-foot production facility on the Snow Mountain Reservation in the northwest Las Vegas Valley.

Those projects, in partnership with Albuquerque-based Ultra Health cannabis, hit a snag when negotiations between the tribe and Ultra Health stalled. The projects folded when Ballot Question 2 passed.

“We realized this industry is evolving and that the recreational market is our economic future,” Tso said. “Our wheels are to the pavement — we want to get the store open and start sourcing product.”