Ken Ritter, Associated Press
(AP) — Two marijuana businesses that were turned down when Nevada awarded recreational dispensary licenses say the state improperly used a temporary employment service to screen hundreds of applicants.
The claim is contained in a court filing Monday in a lawsuit involving Las Vegas pot retailers Planet 13 and The Dispensary. They say state tax officials used the firm Manpower to screen the 462 applications for the licenses that could be worth millions of dollars.
Attorney Will Kemp, representing the two dispensaries, said awarding 32 of 61 provisional licenses to four entities last December was a “gross disparity” that resulted from “documented bias in favor of certain winning applicants.”
Kemp said he expects the documentation will become evident as the lawsuit moves forward. “We’re asking the judge to stop everything and send it to the (Nevada) Tax Commission,” he said.
A court hearing is set for May 24 in Las Vegas.
The case is one of several asking Nevada judges to freeze the awarding of new licenses at least until applicants’ names are made public and the selection procedure is reviewed.
That could happen soon. The Legislature has passed a measure calling for the release of taxpayer information the state now considers confidential.
Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak is expected to sign the new law. He also wants to create a Cannabis Compliance Board similar to the state commission that oversees casino licensing.
The Nevada Department of Taxation, which currently regulates marijuana, disputed some allegations in the court filing, including a claim that three top department officials met with an attorney for Nevada Organic Remedies, one of the four winning bidders, at a cannabis conference in Boston.
Department spokesman Ky Plaskon said the three officials didn’t go to the conference. A lawyer for the company did not