In testimony, ex-tax department boss defends cannabis-licensing practices – Las Vegas Sun

The former director of the Nevada Department of Taxation on Thursday defended the division’s process for selecting recipients of retail cannabis licenses in 2018.

Deonne Contine said during the 13th day of a hearing over a marijuana licensing injunction that she and her employees took the appropriate steps to lay the groundwork to find the most deserving license applicants. 

Among other practices, she defended the use of a provision that called for background checks only on owners of cannabis dispensaries who controlled 5% or more of a company.

“The whole idea behind the process was to balance public health and safety with the interests of the industry,” Contine said. “The goal was to keep a regulated, robust market and to not have potential for a black market.”

Her testimony is part of an ongoing hearing over the grievances of dozens of companies that were rejected for permits to open retail marijuana stores.

Several lawsuits contend the licensing process wasn’t transparent and the state picked favored winners. Some maintain the process was unconstitutional, others seek financial damages. Some seek a do-over.

Contine — who left the tax department in January 2018 and now heads the state’s Department of Administration — testified that it wouldn’t have been “practical” for the department to background check all owners. 

She offered an example of a possible part-owner of a dispensary “in Ohio who might own 0.5 percent” of a company.

Plaintiff attorney Will Kemp was particularly interested in Contine’s example during his questioning. He wondered why the 5% figure was chosen and where it came from.

“Under 5% is a relatively low amount of ownership,” Contine said. “They’re not making decisions. They don’t have enough influence over what’s happening. That was the analysis.”

In 2016,

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