Nevada tribes enter compact to enter marijuana business

KayLynn Roberts-McMurray
The Ely Shoshone Tribe is one of the first tribes to enter a compact with the state to grow, sell and market marijuana in the state.

Special to The Ely Times

Nevada tribes are getting into the marijuana industry by following a successful model from a nearby state.

The Ely Shoshone Tribe and the Yerington Paiute Tribes are the first to enter into marijuana compacts in the state, a consultant group announced.

The agreements were made possible under Senate Bill 375, which Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the bill into law on June 2.

At the time, his office said the measure was “supported by all of Nevada’s 27 tribes and will present economic development opportunities for these communities.”

Senate Bill 375 recognizes the authority of tribes to grow, sell and market marijuana in a state where the drug is legal for medicinal and recreational purposes.

Compacts, while not necessary, are encouraged to address law enforcement, jurisdiction and other issues.

A similar model first emerged in Washington in 2015. Since then, a handful of tribes have successfully entered the marijuana market drawing the interest of several more. This makes a big difference from other states, where tribes faced raids or were threatened by state and federal authorities.

“We quickly learned that no one tribe is the same as another. They each have very unique values, histories, and membership that reflect the opportunities they have or don’t have with the cannabis industry,” said Cassandra Dittus, a co-founder and president of Tribal Cannabis Consulting firm.

Nevada tribal communities are particularly challenged in building sustainable economies. Most of the state’s tribes are in remote locations such as Ely,

The tribe owns only one truck stop, and other economic opportunities are very limited. The largest employer in the region is copper, gold and molybhenum mines.

“This is really going to help us provide economic development to our tribe and services to our small community,” said Ely Shoshone Tribal Council Member Diana Buckner. “The governor has worked with us on the legislation, and we commend him for working with tribes.”

Dittus said that the tribes she partners with are more focused on medical marijuana than recreational, although state voters approved the Nevada Marijuana Legalization Initiative in November 2016 to open the state to both uses.

During the three-year process, “The tribes adopted regulatory codes that let them issue marijuana cards,” said Dittus. “Those cards are also accepted for reciprocity with the state of Nevada.”

Bill Brothers is president of Phoenix-based firm Arizona Facilities Supply, the largest consultation firm specializing in medical marijuana cultivation, research, facility management and software development in Arizona and Maryland. Brothers said it’s important that a tribe entering the cannabis industry work within certain strictures.

Unlike Nevada, Brothers says that not all states have developed protocols for tribal and state reciprocity in issuing user cards.

For example, “Arizona and Maryland allow medical usage,” he said. “But Nevada allows for both medical and adult, or recreational, use and possession by anybody age 21 and over.”

Brothers suggests the Nevada tribes should be in the clear, since Drug Enforcement Administration raids on tribal cannabis growers were in states where the particular tribes were not complying with state law.

There are also practical factors to consider when embarking on a medical marijuana operation: “People need to be aware that marijuana growing is not easy,” Brothers said. “Mold, mildew and bacterial pests are prevalent. It takes solid expertise to grow it commercially. There is no guaranteed success.” In fact, he knows of two operations that failed completely to raise viable crops.

But even with regulatory hoops to jump and the technical issues associated with commercial cultivation, more tribal communities are considering entering the market for cannabis products.

“We have coalitions [such as the National Indian Cannabis Coalition] with the common goal of economic development,” Dittus said. But, despite the change in state law, marijuana remains illegal under federal law and, by extension, in Indian Country.

A  Department of Justice policy that was issued during the Obama administration seemed to recognize the ability of tribes to legalize the drug on their own yet Washington so far has been the only state where operations have begun without problems.

The Trump administration has not rescinded the policy but Attorney General Jeff Session the new head of the department, has vowed to take a harder stance against marijuana.

Sign Up for Email Updates

Get the latest news, alerts, and more from The Ely Times straight to your inbox.


  1. More legal drug pushers.

    • Don’t be so closed minded. Maybe do some research. It could potentially get some of these people off heroine, meth, and pill addiction. That’s where the problems are. You would be amazed at all the positive health and mental health benefits cannabis has.

  2. So nice to see local tribes increasing the flow of substances into our community.
    Very civic minded.

    • Just Another says:

      I don’t see how it would increase the flow. Plenty of people go out of town to get their medical cards and will go out of town to purchase their medical marijuana (and MMJ products). By allowing the tribe to become a dispensary that money stays in the community rather than going out of town or out of state.
      There is already a lot of marijuana traffic, it’s not hard to find street nor medical grade if that’s what you’re looking for. Why not use it as a boon to our economy?

      • Simple math: more pot = more pot. But, as you sound like an expert, I guess that’s what you’re probably after.

        • Just Another says:

          I’m far from an expert. I don’t like the stuff and prefer the nonpsychoactive CBD. What I was trying to get at is the client base won’t change by much, but the money locals spend on it may stay in the community.

          You’ve obviously got your mind made up about things, bully for your side.

    • Jacque Hausen says:

      18 Wheelers… they are replacing drugs that kill and permanently ruin lives with some damn Mary Jane that is more likely to be a phase or used for chronic pain or severe anxiety disorders, MS, Cancer if long term with the majority of adults. You are a dippity doo dah doe. Sissy that can’t handle a little altered sate so never tried any drugs..but believes everything he reads.. 18 Wheelers..blahblahblah Look around you..heroin and opiates everywhere. It wasn’t pot that got people there…it was some of the folks that helped write that study regarding MJ. They like to keep the money with the rX company’s you know nothing ding aling aling long.. Read more of that blahblahblah and blog some more shizdip

  3. Stephen Porter says:

    About time some people put some common cense into Ely. Good job to the tribal leaders that are trying to better the community.

    Closed minded individuals like Wheener are the reason Ely’s economy is behind.

    • Like a moth to a smoldering weed flame – Stephanie Potshot stumbles over himself yet again to champion that thing he (apparently) likes to do. Plenty of things to invest in that would help Ely’s economy short of what has often been described as a gateway substance (that ought to do it – Steph is nothing if not predictable), look it up. Again, simple stoner math: more pot = more pot, and all the things that go along with it. Try not to mix up the oregano with anything else, Steph.

      • Just Another says:

        Marijuana is no more a gateway substance than milk is. Perhaps you might want to reconsider your argument.

        • From The National Institute of Drug Abuse (

          “…a study using longitudinal data from the National Epidemiological Study of Alcohol Use and Related Disorders found that adults who reported marijuana use during the first wave of the survey were more likely than adults who did not use marijuana to develop an alcohol use disorder within 3 years; people who used marijuana and already had an alcohol use disorder at the outset were at greater risk of their alcohol use disorder worsening. Marijuana use is also linked to other substance use disorders including nicotine addiction… Early exposure to cannabinoids in adolescent rodents decreases the reactivity of brain dopamine reward centers later in adulthood.To the extent that these findings generalize to humans, this could help explain the increased vulnerability for addiction to other substances of misuse later in life that most epidemiological studies have reported for people who begin marijuana use early in life… An alternative to the gateway-drug hypothesis is that people who are more vulnerable to drug-taking are simply more likely to start with readily available substances such as marijuana, tobacco, or alcohol, and their subsequent social interactions with others who use drugs increases their chances of trying other drugs.”

          You’re arguing with (GOV) science, not me, but YOU might want to reconsider the ‘milk’ you’re buying.

Speak Your Mind