“Nevada law restricts marijuana consumption to private residences until 2021, but sovereignty exempts the Las Vegas Paiute.” D. Hernandez, The Guardian
Excerpt: ‘The tribe has taken over’: the Native Americans running Las Vegas’s only cannabis lounge-Dan Hernandez, The Guardian
“A couple seated at a high-top table smoked a joint, while six tourists in a circular booth nearby drank THC-infused beer and reviewed the flower menu. It was the morning of the Southern Paiute’s traditional hunt, when tribal youth learn to shoot and harvest mule deer as adult ‘providers’, but Benny Tso, 43, was stuck in the Las Vegas Paiute’s new cannabis tasting room, taking meetings and making calls.
The Tudinu, or ‘desert people’, from whom the Las Vegas Paiute descend, have lived in southern Nevada for more than 1,000 years, spending summers in the mountains and winters by a valley spring until the area was taken over by white settlers. They worked as ranch hands for several decades, and in 1970, the Las Vegas Paiutes became recognized as a sovereign nation, after which they launched several businesses.
In 2017, they opened the NuWu Cannabis Marketplace, a glass-walled, big box structure that half resembles a car dealership. NuWu – which means ‘the people’ in Southern Paiute – sits on the tribe’s colony one mile away from the neon-lit Fremont Street Experience.
Last month, NuWu became the go-to dispensary for many in Las Vegas, and not just because it’s the only one with a drive-thru window. NuWu opened Nevada’s first cannabis tasting room in October. Sovereignty exempts them from a law that restricts marijuana consumption to private residences until 1 July 2021…for the next 21 months, this 55-member Southern Paiute band has the pot lounge business all to itself.
‘We laughed at first about it. Like, ‘oh crap, we’re going to be weed dealers?’ said Tso, who served as the tribal council chair for over 10 years. ‘After we got the jokes aside, we started digging into the numbers. It was just a different way to generate revenue for the tribe when we realized we needed to do something to put our people in better situations. Within a year and half this is going to compete with our other businesses,’ Tso said of NuWu Cannabis Marketplace. ‘I think we’ve prolonged our tribe by three to four more generations.’ He noted that federal assistance for healthcare, education and law enforcement services has dwindled since the recession…Occasionally, NuWu has to cut people off. But overall the experiment has gone so well that two to three other Native American tribes visit each week to learn about the industry some are calling ‘the new new buffalo’, a reference to the term used for casinos when the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act passed in 1988…The strength and ingenuity they have used to survive centuries of marginalization has parallels to the Las Vegas Paiutes’ creation story, which states that their ancestors roamed the desert as ants until a great flood forced them to crawl up a mountain and ascend trees. When the water receded, they returned to the ground and became ‘wo legs’ – human beings – and an especially communal, hardworking sort.
‘We do get teased because we’re city Indians, but a majority of us know our culture and that’s the point,’ said Tso, whose arms are covered in tattoos of traditional Paiute symbols and tools.
His community may need NuWu to be that mountain they climb in the event of a perfect storm, since the tobacco shop revenue plateaued years ago, right as healthcare costs rose to levels unmet by federal support.”