Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak on Friday announced he is creating a multi-agency task force to “root out corruption or criminal influences” in the state’s legal cannabis market, spurred by federal charges filed against two businessmen with ties to President Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
The announcement came a day after a federal indictment in New York detailed a failed attempt by a group with foreign ties to win a retail marijuana license in Nevada by donating money to the political campaigns of two state officials.
The indictment charged two businessmen linked to Giuliani: Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.
“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,” according to Sisolak’s statement.
The Democratic governor also called on the task force to investigate immediately “ongoing issues” – such as “serious allegations of manipulated lab results, and a licensing process mired in litigation … .”
“Any marijuana entity – licensed or unlicensed – that violates the law will see swift and severe criminal and regulatory action,” the statement noted, adding that Sisolak was disappointed in the lack of state oversight regarding this point.
Today, I formed a multi-state agency special task force to root out potential corruption or criminal influences in Nevada’s legal marijuana market, effective immediately.
These ongoing issues are putting public safety and health at risk. The lack of oversight & action ends now. pic.twitter.com/P8Q5bujAWX
— Governor Sisolak (@GovSisolak) October 11, 2019
The federal court indictment filed in New York charged Parnas and Fruman – plus two other men, including a Ukrainian-born U.S. citizen – with illegally funneling foreign money to American political campaigns.
In terms of Nevada, it detailed how the four men and an unidentified foreign national with “Russian roots” missed a September 2018 recreational marijuana license application deadline and decided they would need the governor to change the rules to let them apply.
Fruman allegedly contributed $10,000 each to the Republican campaigns of Adam Laxalt, then the Nevada attorney general who lost his bid for governor, and Wesley Duncan, Laxalt’s former top deputy who ran unsuccessfully for AG.
The indictment does not refer to Laxalt or Duncan by name, but they were identified through state contribution records.
Laxalt issued a statement through spokesman Robert Uithoven that he was unaware of the illegal activity and intends to return the donation.
Duncan said in a statement that he had no idea Fruman was acting unlawfully, and the donation has been returned.
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– Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily