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Ruling expected soon in Las Vegas trial over ‘world war weed’

Updated August 18, 2020 - 9:26 am

Attorneys waged the final battle of “world war weed” on Monday with closing arguments in a trial over marijuana dispensary licenses.

Dozens of companies filed suit against the Nevada Department of Taxation in 2018 after losing their bids to open recreational marijuana dispensaries across the state, alleging unfair practices during the application process.

“The plaintiffs’ dislike for the results of a competition in which they did not succeed is not original,” said Steve Shevorski of the Nevada attorney general’s office, representing the Taxation Department. “What makes these plaintiffs different is that they seek to throw out the competition’s results because they say the rules were unfair.”

Shevorski was one of about 40 attorneys who sat at tables set 6 feet apart in the Las Vegas Convention Center South Hall, where the trial was moved to accommodate social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic.

But attorneys for the businesses who lost out have accused the department of failing to enforce requirements on the applications and choosing to ignore applicants’ statements of deficiency — reported sales to minors or other infractions.

Dominic Gentile, who represents one of the businesses, told District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez that an attorney who represented applicants on both sides of the case had a “cozy” relationship with a Tax Department official.

“You know, there’s a lot of ways to use the term ‘corruption,’” Gentile said. “And here you get corruption. It may not be a financial corruption, but it’s a corruption of a process.”

Shevorski argued that plenty of applicants met with Tax Department officials in 2018, including plaintiffs, and that none of the plaintiffs included their own statements of deficiency in their applications.

“They were all treated equally and allowed to compete,” Shevorski said. “And that there may be plaintiffs on the other side of the aisle that have a grievance against Essence because of how successful they are, or a grievance against Thrive, is not a basis for a constitutional challenge of any stripe.”

Gonzalez will rule on the case after reviewing evidence that was presented during the past month.

Contact Max Michor at mmichor@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0365. Follow @MaxMichor on Twitter.

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