Judge sets hearing on bid to stop new Nevada pot licenses

Associated Press

LAS VEGAS — A Nevada judge said Monday she’ll hear arguments next month on a bid by dozens of companies to freeze a second wave of licenses for the state’s lucrative marijuana sales market.

Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez told more than a dozen lawyers in Las Vegas she can’t officially consolidate seven lawsuits filed in Clark County District Court, and she has no jurisdiction over two lawsuits filed in Washoe and Lyon counties.

But she oversees two cases, and said she hoped having all or most take part in one hearing on May 24 would avoid duplicating efforts by different judges.

“I have invited participation in the preliminary injunction hearing of all interested parties in order to avoid potentially conflicting rulings,” Gonzalez said.

Companies are accusing state tax officials of failing to disclose how they chose winners and losers last December from 462 applicants for 61 new cannabis dispensary and production licenses.

Gonzalez was assigned the first case, filed in December by MM Development Co. and LivFree Wellness, seeking judicial review of state Department of Taxation rules for awarding dispensary licenses.

She also has a case led by Serenity Wellness Center challenging the constitutionality of what the company calls an “arbitrary and capricious” state process for licensing cannabis sales, cultivation and production.

Nevada is one of 10 states in the U.S. allowing and regulating sales of marijuana for adult personal use.

The court cases come with sales booming, marijuana regulations evolving at local, state and federal levels, and Nevada state officials poised to nearly double the 65 dispensaries currently allowed statewide.

In the first year after recreational sales began in July 2017, cannabis sales in Nevada totaled about $530 million, including adult-use and medical.

In just the last six months of 2018, medical and recreational pot dispensaries reported $884 million in sales. The state collected almost $72 million in taxes on recreational sales alone.

Democratic U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen conferred with marijuana business representatives in Las Vegas on Monday about challenges they face in banking and financial services

Pot sales remain prohibited under federal law, and businesses complain they’re forced to pay cash to employees and suppliers because they’re prohibited from opening checking or savings accounts in most financial institutions.

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