Successful in business, the Las Vegas Paiutes are sometimes called “city Indians.” A tease, as the tribe’s ex-chairman, Benny Tso, recently explained to the Guardian, borne out of at least some jealousy.
The Paiutes are one of the more than 500 federally recognized Native American tribes in the United States and one of about a few dozen involved in the cannabis industry. Like other tribes in other states, the Paiutes in the past have turned to tobacco or gambling for income.
But in 2019, the Vegas Paiutes have something nobody else in Las Vegas, tribal or otherwise, can match: For the next 18 months at least, they have Sin City’s only legal cannabis lounge.
In 2017, the tribe opened up the NuWu Cannabis Marketplace, about a mile away from the Fremont Street Experience in revitalized downtown Las Vegas. NuWu, “the people” in the Southern Paiute language, boasts a drive-through window, unique among Vegas’s very many and very large weed stores. And, because they have tribal sovereignty, they’re also exempt from a law prohibiting cannabis use in public.
Thank you @CouncilmanCrear @LawrenceWeekly and @tsegerblom for coming to the announcement of the @NuwuCannabis Nuwu Tasting Room. The first legal space to consume cannabis in Las Vegas. pic.twitter.com/wOR1NGPcUf
— Nuwu Cannabis (@NuwuCannabis) October 3, 2019
With that unique opportunity supplementing the tribe’s proven business acumen, legal weed have may have “prolonged our tribe by three to four more generations,” Tso told the Guardian.
The problem is the Paiutes’s story is newsworthy and it is newsworthy because it is rare.
One of cannabis legalization’s most hoary selling points is economic. Legal weed, or at least the capture by the legal market of demand for the world’s most popular illicit drug, means jobs and tax revenue. At least that was the promise.
But similar to the communities of black, brown and other working-class people of color who suffered the most under prohibition, other tribes in other states have been left out of their share in any cannabis bonanza.
Under federal law, reservations are supposed to be “sovereign nations,” meaning tribes are free (with some exceptions) to pass and enforce their own laws. Like the Paiutes, tribes are allowed to open casinos or sell cheap tobacco under “compacts” with the states within which their “states” exist.
But as KQED pointed out last summer, California has yet to make any law that would allow its more than 100 tribes, 35