The Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel is slowly recovering after a gambling operation, which left them with $50 million debt, failed. The tribe has shut the gambling house doors, and has opened the window of opportunity to growing cannabis.
The tribe’s spokesperson told the Los Angeles Times that he is confident the Santa Ysabel tribe has all legalities under control. He worked as an officer at the Justice Department in California before he retired to head up the gambling house.
From gambling to growing cannabis
The tribe transformed the vacant gambling house into a medical marijuana operation, leasing part of the space to growers who cultivate and distribute marijuana to legal dispensaries throughout the state.
There are twelve or more greenhouses under construction where the parking lot used to be, and soon the facility will be able to accommodate even more tenants.
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The Santa Ysabel Resort and Casino just off Route 79 opened in 2007. The tribe had dreams of great riches as they thought people would flock there, but they had no such luck. There were too many other casinos much closer to San Diego on the Interstate 15 route.
In December 2014, the Justice Department declared that there would be no prosecution of sovereign nations cultivating cannabis on tribal land if the state they were in legalized cannabis. This was 10 months after the casino business failed and the 700 members of the tribe saw their neighbors prosper and grow rich.
New source of revenue
The tribe decided it was time to embrace the marijuana industry. At the start of 2015, they took the first steps towards realizing the new source of revenue. They created laws regulating the cultivation of cannabis in the reserve. They also formed the Santa Ysabel Cannabis Regulatory Agency and Cannabis Commission to supervise the undertaking.
Supplying legal dispensaries
Dave Vialpando says that for the last 18 months, the produce from the site has been shipped across California to legal dispensaries. He wouldn’t give the names of his tenants away, or the financial agreement they have with the tribe. He said the operation is still very small, and is still developing. At the moment, it consists of only two rooms for growing less than a 1,000 plants.
Room for growth
The tribe envisages much more. It plans to have processing rooms, storage space, trim rooms and all the facilities a grower might need. A lab to do testing is next on the agenda, and later, they would like to produce cannabis-infused lotions on-site.
The local Sheriff’s Department said the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel is operating under tribal authority. The district attorney’s office warned that if they broke state laws, there will be an investigation and potential criminal charges.
No legal problems only income
Vialpando foresees no problems and expects only success. The operation is highly regulated and the tribe has no ownership interest in the marijuana. They have inspections and audits, and generate no waste to be disposed of. He said although recreational use is legal, the tribe has no interest in cultivating for that market. The tribe’s laws only allow cultivation of medical marijuana.
This tribe sees growing cannabis as no gamble and believes that nothing but good can come from its decision to trade its casino for cannabis.