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Tax Official Confident As Suits Over Cannabis Licensing Head To Court

Associated Press

The dispute over Nevada’s cannabis business licensing heads to court in Las Vegas this week.

District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez has set a hearing for Friday on lawsuits filed over last year’s issuing of 61 new dispensary and production licenses.

Unsuccessful applicants are accusing state tax officials of not following procedures and failing to disclose information about the process.

An official with the Nevada Department of Taxation’s Marijuana Enforcement Division says licensing was as transparent as the law allowed.

“Anybody who pays a fee to the Department of Taxation becomes a taxpayer, is considered a taxpayer by the law,” department spokesman Ky Plaskon told State of Nevada. “And taxpayer information is confidential; you can’t get somebody’s taxpayer information.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak signed Senate Bill 32 earlier this month, making applicant records available to the public. Plaskon said the thousands of pages of  applicant information immediately made available demonstrate the state’s commitment to openness.

While he couldn’t comment on specific litigation, Plaskon said he is confident the process was fairly conducted.

He also defended the department's use of temporary workers. Licensees that were turned down have argued that temporary workers didn't have any knowledge of the industry and department staff should have been used.

Plaskon explained that it is common for state agencies to hire temporary employees. In addition, he said it would have been difficult to commit that amount of staff to the application process.

“It would have taken nearly a quarter of our entire staff that is monitoring the industry to evaluate these some 400 applications," he said, "We can’t pull a quarter of our staff to evaluate applications for three months and then leave the industry and our regulatory duties.”

Also, Plaskon explained the temporary workers that were hired were people the department knew and wanted to hire. He said the department went through Manpower as a way to pay the temporary workers.

“We were very, very confident that they would look at these applications and draw conclusions and score them according to the law,” he said.

While the dispute over licensing makes its way through the court, Plaskon said he's seen no indication that the companies that did get licenses are not going forward with efforts to set up their operations.

Ky Plaskon, spokesman, Department of Taxation

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With deep experience in journalism, politics, and the nonprofit sector, news producer Doug Puppel has built strong connections statewide that benefit the Nevada Public Radio audience.