Amendment would make public the names of businesses that applied for marijuana licenses, scores

Michelle Rindels
Michelle Rindels

As the state faces criticism and lawsuits over its secretive process for licensing marijuana dispensaries, new legislation is calling for the disclosure of the names of business entities that applied and more details about scoring methodology.

Nevada Department of Taxation Director Melanie Young on Tuesday presented an amendment to SB32, which would expand transparency in the state’s marijuana regulation processes. Currently, the agency will not even release the business names of the 61 entities that in December won conditional licenses to open a dispensary, citing confidentiality provisions that date to an era when the state aimed to protect medical marijuana cardholder identities.

“This amendment is an important step in a multi-pronged approach to greater transparency in marijuana licensing under my administration,” Gov. Steve Sisolak said in a statement. “As our legal marijuana industry has evolved and flourished, it’s more important than ever that the industry and the public enjoy the benefits of a completely open and transparent process from licensing to operation so that our marijuana industry can become the gold standard in the nation."

The measure would be effective retroactively, so it would encompass all entities that have applied since May 1, 2017. It would also reveal the action taken with regard to those applications, the methodology used in scoring and ranking applicants, evidence showing how the methodology was applied, and the names of entities that were subject to disciplinary action.

It would exclude information compiled by investigative staff and law enforcement, blueprints and schematics related to the layout of a marijuana company building, information about security measures and other materials that might jeopardize public safety.

Also private would be “personal information,” trade secret information, and documents related to the finances, earnings and revenue of the applicant or individual people involved in the application. Young said in general, names of individual people who are part of an ownership group that applied will not be public, unless that person applied under their name as part of a sole proprietorship.

Applicants who did not win licenses in the most recent application round have filed lawsuits against the state over the process. One filed last week on behalf of 11 marijuana businesses argued that the level of secrecy on how the winners were determined has been so high that it’s creating an environment ripe for corruption.

Young, who took over the agency earlier this year, said she supported the proposal.

“I share Gov. Sisolak’s commitment to increasing transparency within the marijuana licensing process,” Young said in a statement. “I look forward to working alongside the governor’s office and the legislature to implement this and other needed reforms to shed more light on how marijuana licenses are issued.”

Nobody testified for or against the amendment, which was posted publicly shortly before the meeting, during a brief hearing in the Senate Revenue and Economic Development Committee. Riana Durrett of the Nevada Dispensary Association did not immediately have comment on the proposal.


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