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NM pot producer wants to team up with pueblos

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Shown here is a rendering of Ultra Health’s cannabis production and dispensary site at the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe’s Snow Mountain Reservation. (Courtesy Ultra Health)

SANTA FE, N.M. — A New Mexico medical cannabis producer this week announced a joint venture with the Las Vegas Paiute tribe to build a large growing facility and two dispensaries on tribal land in Nevada.

Duke Rodriguez, founder of Ultra Health LLC, said the $5 million project could serve as a model for a similar deal in coming months with a pueblo in New Mexico.

One of the two planned Nevada dispensaries will be located on a 31-acre parcel of Paiute land in downtown Las Vegas, where the tribe now operates a cigarette retail business and minimart, tribal and Ultra Health leaders said after a news conference in Las Vegas.

The second dispensary, and a greenhouse complex capable of producing 12,000 pounds of cannabis a year, will be located on the tribe’s Snow Mountain reservation about 25 miles northwest of Las Vegas. The tribe now operates the Snow Mountain Paiute Golf Resort and a smokeshop at the site.

“It’s going to be huge for our tribe,” Benny Tso, Las Vegas Paiute tribal chairman, said Monday after the press conference where the deal was announced. “I think its going to benefit the tribe and Ultra Health at the same time.”

Ultra Health, which operates a growing facility in Bernalillo and four dispensaries in Albuquerque, Santa Fe and Hobbs, remains in negotiations with “a good number of the pueblos” in New Mexico about a similar joint venture here.

“We’re hopeful that we can announce a deal in New Mexico, certainly within the next 90 days” with one of the state’s 23 pueblos, Rodriguez said.  Any agreement likely will include both a growing facility and dispensaries on tribal land, he said. He declined to say which pueblos are negotiating with Ultra Health. Rodriguez said he also expects to announce a similar deal this year with a California tribe.

When completed later this year, the Snow Mountain facility will be among the largest legal cannabis growing operations in the United States, producing about 4,000 plants at a time, Rodriguez said.

The two dispensaries will be located next to successful smokeshops now operated by the tribe. A 4,000-square-foot dispensary will be located on the Paiute’s retail complex in Las Vegas, just off the Vegas strip, he said.

Rodriguez said the enterprise will benefit from the city’s thriving tourism industry, which attracts an estimated 43 million visitors a year.

The Nevada enterprise will show tribes across the country that they can benefit from the cannabis industry, he predicted, “especially for tribes that never got to participate in a gaming opportunity because they didn’t have the capital, or they didn’t have the ideal location.” Tribes have land, water, retail expertise and other advantages that make them well positioned for the industry, he said.

“Imagine the amazing logistical network that tribes have with their smokeshops,” he said. “Imagine all those smokeshops becoming (cannabis) dispensaries someday.”

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