By John Schroyer
An Arizona-based ancillary marijuana company said Thursday it’s taken the arguably historic step of purchasing an entire town with the aim of transforming it into a cannabis tourism mecca.
American Green, based in Phoenix, paid $5 million for the 80-acre town of Nipton near the California-Nevada border.
Nipton is about a one-hour drive from the Las Vegas Strip and four hours from Los Angeles.
American Green – which trades as ERBB on the over-the-counter markets – was “involved in” a marijuana vending machine venture, a company spokesman said, and also leases space in Phoenix to a medical marijuana grow. But so far it doesn’t touch the plant itself.
American Green plans to invest roughly $2 million into infrastructure to make Nipton appealing to tourists and other marijuana-related companies that may want to operate in the hamlet.
The transaction also included another 40 acres that will be built out for employee housing.
“We want to revitalize the region, not the town,” said Stephen Shearin, consultant to American Green and general manager of the Nipton project, “and we want to do it in a way that other towns can say, ‘Look at that, they have this regulatory system that allows them to embrace cannabis while not offending people who may not be of that mindset.'”
The deal formally closed this week, over a year and a half after Nipton originally was put up for sale.
Epcot Center is model
During an interview with Marijuana Business Daily, Shearin repeatedly likened the planned Nipton transformation to Disney’s Epcot Center and said the project is conceptualized as a place where people from around the globe can come together to learn.
American Green’s business model for the town is wide-ranging, Shearin said. It includes cultivation and sales – pending local and state licensing – as well as leasing space to other companies, such as edibles makers, which could then ship marijuana products to Los Angeles or elsewhere in California to be sold.
Asked what kind of revenue stream American Green envisions, Shearin said, “The answer is literally all of the above.
“In one form or another, either we license out a space and take nothing but a licensing fee, or we’re co-operators, and not only do we get a licensing fee but also profit because we supply the root product.”
According to Shearin, “the first three points of interest on the action item list” to remake Nipton are:
- Bolstering an existing solar farm.
- Building out natural mineral water baths – potentially including one or more pools with CBD-infused water.
- Ensuring the town is “ready to receive visitors” at its hotel, RV park and campground.
All that work could be done by mid-October, he said, with Nipton possibly able to accommodate up to a thousand visitors in that time frame.
But getting the paperwork in order for full-scale marijuana cultivation and sales may stretch into 2018, Shearin said, since American Green must obtain the proper authorization from both the state and county authorities in order to grow and sell cannabis.
“If we have to wait until January and prepare for that and get that in place, and then build out the infrastructure to support it, we can still have a cannabis-friendly destination,” Shearin said.
Also near the top of American Green’s priority list for the town is the bottling of CBD-infused water, which the company hopes to distribute across California, according to a news release.
The firm is in negotiations with edibles and extraction companies to open up shop in Nipton and offer products for purchase by tourists – and for shipping to distribution points around the state.
American Green also hopes to open cannabis-themed bed and breakfasts, host culinary events, start artists-in-residence programs and more.
“It’s a master-planned community,” Shearin said. “It’s designed to be very specific in terms of being legal, being a town and running it correctly. It’s designed to be open-ended in terms of what it can evolve into by partnering with the right company.”
American Green is looking beyond this project, said Shearin, who noted the company evaluated towns in nine different states before deciding to make Nipton its first Epcot of cannabis.
“The plan is absolutely to duplicate this model in new cities.”
John Schroyer can be reached at [email protected]