Don't call it Weedland. A publicly traded marijuana firm called American Green says that it has purchased what it describes as an entire town in the California desert en route to Las Vegas. However, the company's vision of a pot-friendly town full of weed businesses could run into the law. The local jurisdiction doesn't really allow commercial, recreational or medical marijuana.
The 120-acre deal reportedly cost $15 million. The penny-stock company said in an announcement that the San Bernardino County town of Nipton would become the "country's first energy-independent, cannabis-friendly hospitality destination."
Stephen Shearin, general manager of the Nipton project, says, "Somebody early on said it was going to be a pot Disneyland. I said, 'No that's not what it is. It's an interactive place where you learn about things.'"
He said the small community near the Nevada state line — where American Green hopes to capture Interstate 15 travelers en route to Sin City — would largely remain an old-time Western town with a small hotel. However, Shearin indicated additional rooms would be added and that an aquifer would feed public baths. "If you want to come and see historic Nipton come through," he says. "A cannabis person shouldn't have to feel they have to run down to the cannabis dugout for a toke."
The community isn't really a city of its own. It's part of unincorporated San Bernardino County. "At the end of the day you're just a few deeded businesses and some real estate," Shearin says.
That could be a problem. In 2016, the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors affirmed its prohibition on selling weed and growing it for sale in unincorporated communities like Nipton. The vote anticipated the passage of Proposition 64, which legalized recreational pot for the 21-and-older crowd. Recreational sales are expected to begin next year but only in jurisdictions that allow it.
Hezekiah Herrera, spokesman for county Supervisor Josie Gonzales, declined to comment. But he did say via email that "the ordinance is very clear."
American Green seems to have pie-in-the-sky dreams for the town nonetheless. "Discussions are underway with several well-established edibles and extraction companies that have expressed interest in having production facilities in the town," according to a statement.
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"Ultimately, the company would like to offer a variety of commercial and recreational attractions including CBD and mineral baths, cannabis-product retail outposts, artists-in-residence programs, culinary events and bed-and-breakfast lodging to complete the charming small-town experience," the company stated.
Shearin acknowledged the legal issues but indicated that there were ways around them: The area could incorporate as a city and make its own laws, or it could lobby the county to change the law.
In the meantime, he says, the prohibition "won't change the original vision of acquiring a town and making it a hospitality destination."