What Happens when Pot Buys A Town?

You put your weed in there

Business Features Marijuana
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What Happens when Pot Buys A Town?

American Green Inc. announced Thursday that it was buying all 80 acres of Nipton, CA, which makes this the first time that weed dealers busted the police … and it comes across as late news, something we knew was coming but are still sort of shocked by. The news that legal hallucinogenics now possess an entire village is ancient hat; weed already owns so many towns in so many subtle ways that there is nothing new under the grow lamp. It should also be stressed that Las Vegas has been the United States’ own most hallucinogenic metropolis for a good thousand years now.

According to CNBC, the name Weed is taken: “it belongs to an old mill town in Northern California.” But that’s okay: the concept is free as a bird, and can crash wherever it likes. The details were as follows:

American Green Inc. [plans] ... an Old West-style hotel, a handful of houses, an RV park and a coffee shop. Its plans are to transform the old Gold Rush town into what it calls “an energy-independent, cannabis-friendly hospitality destination.”

Energy-independent is code for “solar panels” and perhaps even their natural beauty partner, “windmills.” The buyers have “reached out” to “edibles manufacturers” and other stalwarts of the weed industry, to see if they are interested in relocating.

The town’s current residents, CNBC tells us, “number fewer than two dozen and one of its major sources of revenue is the California Lottery tickets the general store sells to people who cross the state line from Nevada because they can’t buy them there.”

Weed will become an economic keystone of this hamlet. Is this a good thing? After all, there’s a reason weed is married to so many iconoclastic notions. It could just be a matter of generational coincidence—the wandering Boomers picked up marijuana as an avant garde substance at the right time—but freethinking angles cohere neatly around cannabis practice, and cannabis society. Even if you don’t smoke it, or don’t buy into the entire subculture surrounding it, marijuana is a Different Matter than all the other dullers, buzzers, uppers, downers, and the stupefying cosmos of mind-altering catalysts we consume on a regular basis here in America. Cannabis is not a panacea, and for some people it is not even a pleasure, but in the weird world of psychostimulants and brain-twizzlers, it has a special place. What happens to weed when it clashes against Victorian capitalism? One will swallow the other, and my bet is on the market winning. Marijuana will become another instance of a liberatory impulse turning into a commodified symbol. The point of cannabis was to set free, and tune in, not to buy in and set prices. They took the de-stressor drug and set it on a treadmill.

And while the weed business is good, it is still that, a business. If you’ve been paying attention, there is green in the green. Weed is the kind of enterprise that modern Fortune 500 CEO-types claim they love—the kind of business that Silicon Valley tycoons swear by—a dangerous, on-the-edge-of-safe affair which has media cachet and piratical air to it. At present, due to its ambiguous nature, Green Business is still on the frontier of compelling, before it becomes sheerly a matter for the accountants. There is a window of time before the toilers in the field of Marijuana Corporate Life stop being dreamers and are replaced by the stolid competence of number crunches, lawyers, and futures investors. The day is coming, and all things being equal, will probably arrive when all fifty states are made legal under the writ of Congress or the Court. How long? Not too long.

The weed business is just on this side of legal and this level of profitable. As a specialty agribusiness, weed deals in publicity more than volume. It exists in legal niches carved out by odd electoral victories and the whim of legislatures. The big names are holding out until they can traipse in without their investment being endangered. They want freedom from liability, just like the alcohol, cigarette, and firearm manufacturers enjoy. Nipton is therefore a quirk, but the first of a coming avalanche.

What American Green aims to do in Nipton is a very old story: This will be a company town. Not so different from the mattress towns, or the insurance towns, or the chocolate towns, or insert-noun-here towns which have been built around a single industry since the dawn of factory life and mechanization. It is a habitual feature of our wide American continent to build everything around commercial possibility, and the nativity of Weed Town One is in that same mold. The only fresh fact about it is the industry. There are weed towns aplenty in Mexico, but they lack the legal freedom that Nipton will enjoy.

In the end, what is actually occurring in this exchange? It’s not particularly hard to understand. American Green is not buying Nipton—they are buying the possibility of Nipton. Contrary to popular opinion, large business folk tend to be incredibly cautious. The goal is to phalanx your investment, to guard it as closely as possible. American Green is buying Nipton not to build Disneyland—nothing so ambitious or encouraging. Rather, AG is buying Nipton so to invite other businesses in, so they can take the risk. Underneath the embrace of freewheeling rebelliousness is a timidity which belongs to the investor, not the experimenter. Which reminds me that cannabis causes rushed euphoria, irrational paranoia, inexplicable hungers, and wild thirst. Perhaps post-industrial profit and marijuana are a perfect match after all.