Nevada judge rules cannabis licensing process can proceed

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A Nevada judge ruled the state’s marijuana licensing process can resume, with some new retail marijuana stores allowed to open.

The decision, issued Thursday, also means some applications for licenses will be reviewed again by state officials and some companies will continue to be denied the licenses they didn’t get in December 2018.

The 30-page ruling in what Gov. Steve Sisolak characterized as “a very difficult, complex case” is unlikely to be the last word on the two-year legal fight involving dozens of parties over who can open marijuana shops in the lucrative Nevada market.

Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez acknowledged several times during the litigation – which involved more than a month of recent hearings – that she expected her decision will be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

But state Attorney General Aaron Ford interpreted Gonzalez’s ruling as a victory because it didn’t order a do-over of the licensing process begun when 462 applicants sought 64 new licenses in September 2018.

State taxation officials awarded 61 licenses, bringing to 125 the number of recreational marijuana shops allowed statewide.

Attorneys for plaintiffs, defendants and involved parties did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Under Gonzalez’s ruling, some winning applicants with plans to reopen will remain on hold pending background checks of officers.

The judge did not say laws were broken, despite allegations by attorneys for some companies, and she did not specify who should now get a license – or not.

Gonzalez did fault Jorge Pupo, a former Department of Taxation deputy director who headed marijuana licensing at the time, for deleting text messages and being unable to provide his cellphone for examination at trial.

Other evidence showed that evaluation rules were changed after Pupo met with an industry lobbyist.

Associated Press and Marijuana Business Daily