FBI investigating Nevada cannabis business licensing process, report says

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Federal agents have been scrutinizing the Nevada cannabis licensing process to determine if any corruption was involved in the awarding of business permits.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, FBI agents have been speaking with Nevada marijuana industry executives for at least a year.

The investigation is focused on potential “pay-to-play” situations that might have arisen since the state legalized recreational cannabis in 2016, the newspaper reported.

One former state lawmaker, Chad Christensen, who co-owns Pisos dispensary in Las Vegas, told the Review-Journal he spoke with FBI agents for roughly 45 minutes last December about his suspicions of corruption during the licensing process.

The newspaper cited two other anonymous industry sources who reported similar conversations with FBI agents, who asked “whether bribes or campaign contributions were used to influence the distribution of cannabis licenses.”

In addition, the Nevada attorney general’s office was notified in February 2020 of a joint investigation being run by the state Department of Public Safety and federal authorities.

The federal probe could be fueled by an ongoing legal battle over 64 marijuana business licenses that were awarded in 2018 to 17 businesses from a pool of 127 applicants, the Review-Journal reported.

In 2019, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak appointed a task force to “root out corruption or criminal influences” in the state’s marijuana industry.