Marijuana Task Force Formed in Nevada To Root Out Corruption

Marijuana Task Force Formed in Nevada To Root Out Corruption

Convenient timing, or savvy political maneuvering? A federal court indictment filed in New York charged two businessmen — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman —  linked to President Trump’s personal attorney (and former New York City Mayor) Rudy Giuliani.

The indictment prompted Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak to announce the very next day the creation of a multi-agency task force to root out criminal influences and corruption in the state’s legal cannabis market. Sisolak noted that the task force has been a topic of discussion since the end of the legislative session but the recent indictment pushed it to the forefront.

The federal court indictment charged four men total with illegally moving money to political campaigns in the U.S., and detailed a failed attempt to obtain a retail cannabis license in Nevada by donating money to the political campaigns of two state officials by a group with foreign ties.

Specifically, the indictment described in detail how the four men — along with a still unidentified foreign national with Russian roots — failed to meet a recreational license application deadline in September 2018. With the missed deadline, the group concluded they still wanted to apply and the governor needed to change the rules.

One of the men, Fruman, allegedly made $10,000 donations to two Republican campaigns: Adam Laxalt, who was at the time the Nevada attorney general who made (and lost) his bid for governor, and Wesley Duncan, who was Laxalt’s former top deputy and who ran (and subsequently lost) his attempt at becoming the next attorney general. While the indictment doesn’t name Laxalt or Duncan per se, they were identified through state contribution records. Both men have issued statements indicating they were unaware of any illegal contributions, and as of this writing, Duncan has returned the donation and Laxalt intends to do the same.

A statement released by the office of Governor Steve Sisolak on October 11 said, “The governor is outraged by yesterday’s news that a foreign national attempted to influence Nevada’s elections through a million-dollar laundering scheme in order to gain a marijuana license and enter our legalized market,” adding, “Any marijuana entity – licensed or unlicensed – that violates the law will see swift and severe criminal and regulatory action.”

The statement reflected Sisolak’s disappointment in the lack of oversight in Nevada, and also called on the task force to immediately investigate any ongoing issues, including allegations of manipulated lab results and a litigious licensing process. “Governor Sisolak’s administration is taking immediate action in order to protect the health and safety of Nevadans, the jobs created by the industry, and the long-term sustainability of education funding generated from the legalized marketplace,” the statement concluded.

Gov. Sisolak hasn’t divulged who will be on the aforementioned task force. Earlier in the year, Sisolak signed a bill that would create a Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB), which is modeled after the established Nevada Gaming Control Board, although authority and funding isn’t slated until mid-2020.