The former tribal hall for the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel is disintegrating; its stucco walls sloughing off like the skin of diamondback rattlesnakes, a slithering native to these rolling hills in rural San Diego County. The decay is a stark contrast to the Native American tribe’s economic development venture two miles down the highway: a state-of-the-art cannabis cultivation and manufacturing campus. The facility sits atop a chapparal-covered hill, overlooking a pastoral valley with grazing cattle and farmland plowed into neat rows. The hub of the tightly secured compound is the former casino building, now the home of cannabis industry tenants and the Mountain Source dispensary the tribe opened last week.
Like many other Native American communities, the tribe at Santa Ysabel hoped to create jobs and a source of revenue through gaming. But when the gamblers didn’t come, opting instead for larger, flashier casinos closer to metro San Diego, the tribal community was left with 50 million dollars of debt and an empty building. Santa Ysabel then turned to cannabis as a solution to its financial woes. With the guidance of the 2014 Wilkinson memorandum from the Obama administration, the tribe drafted California’s first comprehensive cannabis regulations the following year. The