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No Pipe Dream: Cannabis Company Buys California Town

The Nipton Trading Post is among the few businesses in the tiny California town. American Green has big plans for the town in what it calls the "Cannabis Revolution."
John Locher

Nipton, Calif., 60 miles south of Las Vegas, isn't convenient to much. It sports a hotel, a trading post, a historical plaque and a whole lot of passing trains.

And as of this week, Nipton has something else: a cannabis company for an owner, with designs on turning the hamlet into a pot-centric tourist destination.

"[W]e are thrilled to begin work on this first-of-its-kind eco-tourism experience for conscious cannabis consumers," David Gwyther, chairman and president of American Green, said in a statement announcing the purchase.

The 80-acre town was put up for sale last year for $5 million.

American Green says it is the largest publicly traded cannabis company in the U.S. The company says it intends to modernize Nipton into an energy-independent hub for "the production of various cannabis-based products as well as possible fully-licensed cultivation which includes a safe and appropriate approach to consumption."

The company plans to start by bottling water (from a nearby aquifer) infused with CBD, the cannabis component linked to relieving pain and inflammation.

And from there, American Green hopes to attract like-minded companies to set up shop — CBD and mineral baths, dispensaries, artist-in-residence programs, culinary events and bed-and-breakfasts — "to complete the charming small town experience."

Nipton has fewer than two dozen residents, but it has a way of playing backdrop to big dreams.

A gold miner from Malibu named Gerald Freeman and his wife, Roxanne Lang, bought the town in the 1980s, reopening the town's store and café and renovating the hotel. Freeman installed a solar farm and worked to make the town run entirely on its own clean energy.

For its part, American Green is hoping to spur a "Green Rush" like the Gold Rush that built Nipton.

"The Cannabis Revolution that's going on here in the US has the power to completely revitalize communities in the same way gold did during the 19th century," Gwyther said in the statement. "This acquisition allows us to channel the myriad interests in cannabis production and consumption for an immediate positive impact to this community's members and to cannabis consumers across the country."

One in five American adults can now legally consume the marijuana plant. Governing magazine says marijuana is legal, or is in the process of being legalized, in some form in 29 states and the District of Columbia; eight states and D.C. have legalized recreational use.

And for Nipton, a new owner means another chance to play host to a grand vision of the future.

Freeman died last year, after he and Lang put the town up for sale.

"Things are evolving and the future is clear," Freeman told The New York Times in 2014. "It's just a question of how soon we can get there."

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Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.
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