Cannabis company plans to turn desert town into pot paradise

A woman walks out of the Hotel Nipton, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, in Nipton, Calif.
A woman walks out of the Hotel Nipton, Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017, in Nipton, Calif.
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Now that one of the US's largest cannabis companies has bought the entire California desert town of Nipton, a question remains: Will the new owner rename the place Potsylvania?

The name Weed already belongs to an old mill town in Northern California.

The Nipton Trading Post

The Nipton Trading Post

American Green announced on Thursday that it is buying all 80 acres of Nipton, which includes an Old West-style hotel, a handful of houses, a recreational vehicle (RV) park and a coffee shop. It plans to transform the old Gold Rush town into what it calls "an energy-independent, cannabis-friendly hospitality destination".

The town's current owner, Roxanne Lang, said the sale is still pending, but confirmed American Green is the buyer. She declined to reveal the price before the sale closes, but noted that she and her late husband, Gerald Freeman, listed the property at 5 million US dollars (£3.8 million) when they put it up for sale last year.

Asked what her husband would think of the buyer's plan to turn Nipton into the pot paradise of the California desert, she laughed.

"I think he would find a lot of humour in that," she said, adding that, as a Libertarian, Mr Freeman had no problem with people using marijuana, and as a proponent of green power he would be all in favour of energy independence. Over the years he had installed a solar farm himself which provides much of the tiny town's electricity.

A flag flies in front of a store in Nipton, Calif

A flag flies in front of a store in Nipton, Calif

American Green said it plans to expand that farm and also bottle and sell cannabis-infused water from Nipton's plentiful aquifer, joint moves which would make the town green in more ways than one.

The buyers are also reaching out to edibles manufacturers and other pot-industry businesses, hoping they will be interested in relocating to Nipton and bringing jobs with them.

The town's current residents 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 cannot buy them there.

"We are excited to lead the charge for a true Green Rush," said David Gwyther, American Green's president and chief executive. "The cannabis revolution that's going on here in the US has the power to completely revitalise communities in the same way gold did during the 19th century."

Laura Cavaness, left, and Carl Cavaness clean out a lodge at the Hotel Nipton

Laura Cavaness, left, and Carl Cavaness clean out a lodge at the Hotel Nipton

Indeed it was a gold rush that created Nipton in the early 1900s when the precious metal was found nearby.

But by the time Mr Freeman, a Los Angeles geologist who liked to look for gold in his spare time, discovered the place in the 1950s it was already a ghost town. Even worse it was 60 miles (96.5km) south of Las Vegas and 10 miles (16km) off the major highway that connects that city to Los Angeles.

"I like to say it's conveniently located in the middle of nowhere," joked Ms Lang.

Mr Freeman bought the town in 1985 anyway and spent the next 30 years lovingly restoring its boutique hotel and general store, building canvas-covered "eco cabins" and stocking them with wood-burning stoves and swamp coolers.

Laura Cavaness sweeps out a lodge at the Hotel Nipton

Laura Cavaness sweeps out a lodge at the Hotel Nipton

The small hotel has become a popular destination with desert aficionados and fans of the Old West, even though it is located so close to a major railway line that moves freight between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City that guests are handed earplugs with their room keys.

Carl Cavaness, who works at the hotel, said on Thursday that the sale had caught him by surprise. He said he hopes the new owners will let him and his wife stay.

"We like the quiet and solitude," the 53-year-old handyman said.