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Las Vegas lawyers and investors watching the pot boil

May 25, 2014

The cannabis industry in Nevada is heating up with recent efforts to legalize recreational marijuana use and the successful amendment to rules of professional conduct by Las Vegas lawyers to advise clients on cannabis without jeopardizing their law license as the Las Vegas Review Journal reports. While legal on the books since 2000, medical marijuana in Nevada has only been beginning to gather steam since 2013 when the state legislature authorized dispensaries according to zoning and licensing regulations, and now, all manner of investors are lining up to contribute to the pot.

And even though now it’s permissible for Las Vegas lawyers to advise city councils on interpretation of the “validity, scope and meaning of Nevada Constitution Article 4, Section 38,” the state is discovering whole new sets of challenges in implementation that need addressing. Like who can invest, and how much, and by what ethical standard. The Nevada Gaming Control Board, for example, has given casinos an ultimatum: gambling or weed, but not both. Board member Terry Johnson issued a statement that outlined a “no-touch” policy for would-be investors or consumers in the gaming industry, including employees. Citing federal law violations and maintaining that NGC affiliated entities should remain 100% above board in all business operations and personal recreations, the Board has drawn a hard line.

But not so for other investors, like former presidential advisor Sig Rogich, whose political points of view have made the drastic shift from warring on drugs to investing in them in the last 30 years. Now he’s a minority owner in Deep Roots Medical LLC, partnering with former casino owner Gary Primm and his son Roger. “Rogich is one of a score of political heavyweights jostling for Nevada’s limited medical marijuana business,” according to David Ferrara of the Review-Journal. And Rogich’s own mutating views on marijuana seem to pretty accurately mirror the public perspective as well, at least according to some of the Las Vegas lawyers representing the growing number of potential dispensaries in Nevada.

109 companies submitted 206 proposals for medical marijuana licenses in Clark County last week, “and the Review-Journal found not only deep political clout, but ties to the casino industry, real estate moguls, and several prominent doctors in the Las Vegas Valley.” And no wonder—with the expected growth of the marijuana industry, up to $9.6 million this year, investors are expecting the market to “be worth a helluva lot of money.” State Sen. Tick Sergeblom, D-Las Vegas and author of the 2013 medical marijuana bill said that.

And now, Las Vegas lawyers and judges are looking to get in on the cut, too. At least one judge, James Bixler of the Eight District Court, was a cofounder of a dispensary and applied for dispensary and cultivation licenses. With lobbyists, newspaper publishers, senators, assemblymen, Mormons, legislators, and local business owners going on public record in support of the industry, it’s a little ironic for the NGC would want to be “beyond reproach” regarding marijuana in Nevada which has proven to be neither a moral or ethical issue. Apparently old axioms hold true, and there will always be a kettle who calls the pot black.

 

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