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An employee prepares cannabis for planting in the propagation room at Reef Dispensaries, 3400 Western Ave., on Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017. Photo by Jeff Scheid.

Officials from the Nevada Department of Taxation say Jorge Pupo, who headed the state’s embattled recent round of marijuana dispensary licensing, has been placed on leave.

The state has not released further details about why Pupo is on leave from his job as the agency's deputy executive director, citing the fact that the matter is a personnel issue. But Pupo came under fire in court over the summer and most recently in a newly filed lawsuit by marijuana companies that want the entire application review and licensing round redone.

Plaintiffs allege Pupo was too cozy with representatives of marijuana companies, socializing with an attorney whose clients won numerous licenses and providing her guidance on the application process. They also say that Pupo was offered jobs by executives at certain companies.

Pupo has said that he would have provided such information to any applicant who asked for it, and that he didn’t view certain interactions from executives as job offers, but rather as casual mentions that he should call them if he left his job at the state.

Nevada caps dispensary licenses, and winning one in a highly competitive application process opens up business opportunities worth untold millions and a major advantage over companies that lack a retail storefront. Of the more than 450 applications for dispensaries, only 61 conditional licenses were distributed among 17 different companies.

Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez last month issued a partial injunction preventing some of the dispensaries from taking the final steps toward opening. She cited numerous flaws in the state’s application vetting process, including that “the process was impacted by personal relationships.”

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