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Nuwu celebrates expansion to downtown Las Vegas marketplace

NuWu Cannabis

The unofficial weed holiday 4/20 was celebrated widely by dispensaries across the city this year, but it marked a special occasion for one marijuana business in particular, NuWu Cannabis celebrated the near-completion of its newest expansion.

This is a massive complex built to accommodate the ever-expanding client base of the city's oldest dispensary. Indigenous Affairs reporter Miles Brady was there.


JOE SCHOENMANN, HOST: Miles, welcome to the program. So Miles, first things first, talking about this new expansion. What's changed?

MILES BRADY, INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, first of all, it's huge. It's a massive complex built right next door to the original new downtown marketplace. The counter extends through the entire facility which actually wraps around the new courtyard, it appears to be home to the world's largest blowup cannabis bong, which greets you right when you walk in the door. But overall, I think the story of the expansion is that it's just bigger, there's more more service at the counter, there's more inventory. There's the drive-thru now has relocated to this new building as well. As well as the outdoor addition. It's it's just so much bigger, massive.

SCHOENMANN: NuWu also has the state's first social consumption lounge. Other businesses will start having that probably this summer because they've been approved by the state. And now Clark County's approved them did that move as well.

BRADY: So the original lounge, for the time being is still in the first building. But what they've added is a courtyard, walk-up counter. So at the event, there were attendants behind this counter, patrons sitting outside in the courtyard on stools and being served like it were any sort of bar ... anywhere where you would get alcohol or cocktails. But with cannabis.

SCHOENMANN: Were there a lot of people?

BRADY: Yeah. That walked in and out through the course of the entire two day event. hundreds if not maybe even reaching into the thousands. It was a huge spot for content creators in the city. Tons of people running around with cameras, someone even circling a drone that had a pretty funny interaction with one of the stilt performers there. It was a place to be.

SCHOENMANN: Unfortunately, for people seeing it for the first time, customers, patrons give me some of the reactions. What was it like for them?

BRADY: I mean, people were blown away, I think by the scope of what was happening: their VIP entrance, red carpet had 40 Lamborghinis, Ferraris and McLaren's lined up to one side of it. There was this massive stage where you had all these performers and DJs playing, like I said, performers of various persuasions, still performers, acrobats, that sort of thing. Just sort of littering the campus. It was like a cannabis carnival. It was just incredible.

SCHOENMANN: Now among all those vendors and cannabis industry people there was one prominent musical artist in attendance, Busta Rhymes, that is a major get for any event. What was the crowd reaction to seeing Busta Rhymes?

BRADY: First of all, let me just put it this way, security was definitely having to push people away from his entrance from the SUVs that pulled up to the courtyard. People were extraordinarily excited to see his performance, a lot of people filtering in right before, I think probably making their rounds at other events and making it just in time the bus was there. Performed I would say for probably about half an hour, not a super long set, but definitely engaging, intimate show, but not poorly attended by any stretch of the imagination. Buster put on a show like he's been putting on for 30 years, people were absolutely electrified and engaged and all of those things. It was, like I said, it this was the place to be on 420.

SCHOENMANN: Now, I want to begin talking about this: NuWu is a tribal business. It was the first dispensary in the valley, predating all the other dispensaries. It has a social consumption lounge. How is that possible? How will those things possible when when it hadn't been legal to have those in other parts of the state yet,

BRADY: This story of NuWu Cannabis is sovereignty at work. Las Vegas Paiute Tribe being able to leverage the fact that they are tribes at least ideally should be treated as sovereign nations being able to put to work they can legalize this substance on their own lands if they want to; a little bit of synergy with the county backing off criminalization efforts and that sort of thing and kind of allowing product to move into the non-tribal areas in the city. But that was what Las Vegas Paiutes were able to sort of leverage to get a business like this off the ground years before people were legally allowed to operate dispensaries in Las Vegas.

SCHOENMANN: I'm kind of curious after dispensaries opened in Las Vegas and around the state if business at NuWu slowed. I mean, what did they tell you?

BRADY: Let me say this new was the only dispensary this year that used 420 to unveil a massive expansion that is bigger than their original building, I would venture to say that not only has business not slowed, it seems to have even accelerated that NuWu has been able to continue to push the envelope and expand their client base, even as more and more dispensaries have opened up across Las Vegas. And I think it's a testament to the tribes ingenuity in their marketing and in their service as a cannabis business.

SCHOENMANN: In a broader sense, I wonder what this kind of success means to tribes in general, and to those who might be thinking of starting a new business on tribal lands.

BRADY: So it's interesting because there's kind of two minds about this, on the one hand, cannabis business and that sort of thing opens up a door for tribes in the private sector, that hasn't previously been available for decades, casino has been the business of choice for tribes, the ability of tribes to now open cannabis businesses and be able to do things on their own lands like the cannabis lounge that isn't available in non tribal lands in their surrounding area. That means that tribes have a new avenue to make money for the first time. At the same time, the question of startup capital and things of that nature for these businesses, for tribes who are struggling economically, to the degree that there are massive swaths of certain reservations that do not have electricity that do not have running water. The question becomes, what are tribes prioritizing? And if tribes prioritize business is that money going to trickle down into the rest of the community and for the casino era, we've seen it both ways. We've seen where casinos have resulted in pretty incredible opportunities for tribal citizens. And we've also seen where tribal governments will absorb that wealth and most of it, if any of it doesn't make its way into the community.

SCHOENMANN: So we see casinos now in Las Vegas operated by tribes, we see NuWu and the success of that business. Are you expected to see more businesses like this opening up in the state?

BRADY: I think it depends. ... I think drawn the interest of a lot of tribes from around the country who are looking at Las Vegas as an opportunity to operate entertainment-based businesses. Again, I think it's a question of what are tribes prioritizing in the current era. It's a very strange time in Indian country because as we see massive efforts like NuWu or like the Palms and these big public spectacles of success, we're also seeing in the opposite direction, the disillusion of a lot of sovereignty measures. The Indian Child Welfare Act is under threat right now. The Oklahoma v. Castro decision just decimated a lot of sovereignty law and precedent that had been standing for some time. So at this time, as far as are we going to see more businesses like this? It depends on what tribes are going to prioritize in the coming years.

SCHOENMANN: Nuwu Cannabis marketplace has just given the public a sneak peek at its newest expansion to its downtown dispensary, which includes a brand new 24 hour drive-thru, now open to the public.

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