Las Vegas Sun

November 16, 2018

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Years in the making’: Tribal pot store near downtown to open Monday

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L.E. Baskow

A wide variety of product is in stock including weed canisters as the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe opens its Nuwu Cannabis Marketplace for VIP media and politicians for an exclusive look at the mega dispensary before its Monday opening on Saturday, October 14, 2017.

Paiute Tribe Nuwu Cannabis

Chris Spotted eagle gives a blessing flanked by the tribal council as the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe opens its Nuwu Cannabis Marketplace for VIP media and politicians for an exclusive look at the mega dispensary before its Monday opening on Saturday, October 14, 2017. Launch slideshow »

Nevada’s largest marijuana retail facility and first on tribal lands will open its doors to the public on at 10 a.m. Monday.

About 200 tribal leaders and families celebrated the announcement with industry members and elected officials in a private gathering Saturday inside the new 15,500 square-foot Nuwu Cannabis Marketplace. The ceremony also featured traditional Native American songs, chants and dances performed by birdsingers from tribes across Nevada.

“The road has been paved, and we will excel at the highest level,” said Benny Tso, Chairman of Las Vegas Paiute Tribe. “This is special here in Nevada, and we are privileged to be a part of it.”

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 marijuana buyers in mind, Tso said.

Hundreds of marijuana products and paraphernalia — from THC flower to bongs and hemp-enhanced dog biscuits, filled the once-empty shelves on Saturday as decorative displays of water trickled down small glass walls placed throughout the facility.

Store manager Ethan Lucas said the marketplace stockpiled over 500 pot products for its opening from various Nevada cultivation and production facilities, and hopes to soon expand its product inventory to over 1,000 different items to serve anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 customers per day. Nuwu will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 a.m. in its first couple weeks, but plans to expand to 24 hours by the end of the month.

Tso said he expects the marijuana market to become an "economic driver” for the 56-person tribe, several of whose members were hired to fill nearly 100 staff positions at the new dispensary. Other Nuwu employees, like Lucas and inventory manager Tazia Farmer, came from other marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities across Nevada and California to join what Tso called the largest marijuana retail space in the world.

“It’s huge for the survival of the Las Vegas Paiute tribe and to make sure they prosper in the future,” Lucas said.

Among guests at Saturday’s opening included Rick Stierwalt, owner of Experience Premium Cannabis cultivation facility in North Las Vegas. Stierwalt, whose facility is one of over a dozen suppliers to the new Paiute pot store, said the massive marketplace will benefit “everybody involved.”

“The industry struggled through the medical-only model,” he said, referring to two-year period of medical sales in Nevada before recreational marijuana sales were made legal on July 1. “But this is great for business.”

Nevada State Sen. Tick Segerblom, who championed legislation for legalized recreational marijuana in this year’s stage legislature, made Nuwu’s first purchase on Saturday – an eighth ounce of Segerblom Haze flower, a strain named last year in his honor.

Saturday’s exclusive announcement to the Las Vegas Sun comes after nearly two years of tribal efforts to enter Nevada’s legal marijuana industry. In February 2016, 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. But those projects, in partnership with Albuquerque-based Ultra Health cannabis, hit a snag when negotiations between the tribe and Ultra Health stalled.

The projects then folded when Ballot Question 2 – which legalized marijuana for recreational use in Nevada – passed in last year’s election.

“When we saw there was an opportunity to enter the recreational market, that changed the game,” Tso said. “But for us, having a marijuana marketplace has been years in the making.”

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.

On Saturday, Tso said the tribe is ready to “make history.”

“This is proof we can work hand in hand,” he said. “This industry is small, but when we get together we can make Las Vegas be a destination for marijuana.”