MMJ Conflicts Extend to Regulators, Threaten Budding Industry

Is anyone else wondering how Nevada Gaming Commission members can keep a straight face while discussing the perils of licensees being associated with Nevada’s blossoming medical marijuana industry?

The commission voted (barely) last week to endorse the Control Board’s earlier edict that grass and green felt don’t mix.

Here’s a line from Howard Stutz’ report in the Las Vegas Review-Journal:

Thursday’s vote affirming that notice was 2-0 — three of the five commission members, all lawyers, recused themselves because members of their law firms represent clients with medical marijuana interests.

Commission Chairman Pete Bernhard is in business with Kaempfer Crowell, a firm working feverishly to deliver medical marijuana establishment licenses for its clients.  Same story for Joe Brown of Fennemore Craig Jones Vargas.

But the best conflict on the commission belongs to John Moran.

His son and law firm colleague, JT Moran, represents a group applying for three licenses. Until last week the disclosed owners of the proposed establishments included Barry Moore, who is married to Jane Tobman Moore. Her sister Marilyn is the wife of gaming commissioner John Moran and the mom of young JT, the attorney representing Moore and the hopeful pot peddlers.

But Barry Moore owns a bar with slot machines.  He’d have to give that up to get in the medical weed biz.  Now, documents I received from the county on Friday reveal Barry is no longer listed as an owner of GB Sciences, but his wife is!

I’m no attorney but even I could figure out that slight degree of separation probably wouldn’t fly with gaming regulators, a hunch confirmed by Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett, who said:

I do not feel that would be enough separation.  If the Feds indicted the medical marijuana business, the husband might be implicated because of financial commingling between spouses, possible involvement or control entanglements between the two, or outright conspiracy to violate federal law.

Now, you’d think John Moran could have saved his son the trouble on this one.  Or was young JT intending to keep dad in the dark about Aunt Janie’s proposed involvement?

And what degree of separation will gaming regulators determine is suitable?

Governor Brian Sandoval, who signed the medical marijuana establishment bill into law, supports the cautionary tone from gaming regulators.

Attorneys, officers of the court sworn to uphold the law, are so far getting a green light from the Nevada Bar to take part.

And in early June the state medical board, which regulates doctors, will take up issues involving that profession – from ethics to ownership.

Prohibiting doctors would really thin the herd of hopeful applicants… unless Clark County once again extends the “deadline” for ownership changes!  And it would reinforce the perception that there’s really nothing “medical” about marijuana in Nevada.

Medical marijuana is legal in Nevada.  Voters decided and the Legislature acted.  The feds will come around.  They have no choice.

In the meantime, here’s my advice for our betting state –  All in or fold.

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