California tribe transforms casino into medical cannabis grow site

The Iipay Nation in San Diego County has transformed a failed 35,000-square-foot casino into a high-tech medical marijuana cultivation site and is leasing some of the space to growers who can sell product to legal dispensaries throughout California.

The operation currently consists of two grow rooms with fewer than 1,000 plants. But more than a dozen greenhouses on the tribal property are in various stages of construction, the Los Angeles Times reported. A spokesman said the tribe has no intention of getting into recreational cannabis cultivation.

The 700-member tribe started working on medical cannabis soon after its casino failed in early 2014 and the federal government issued a memo declaring it wouldn’t prosecute sovereign Native American nations for cultivating medical cannabis in states with legal MMJ programs, according to the Times.

The casino was saddled with $50 million in debt.

In 2015, the tribe started establishing regulations and created the Santa Ysabel Cannabis Regulatory Agency and Cannabis Commission.

The head of the regulatory commission told the newspaper the tribe has been shipping cannabis to dispensaries across the state for about 18 months, but declined to identify the growers.

The tribe is the first in sprawling San Diego County to try medical marijuana cultivation. The San Diego County Sheriff and local district attorney indicated they don’t have jurisdiction in the tribal lands where the grow is located.