Less than two weeks after a Las Vegas judge stopped the Nevada Department of Taxation from giving out dozens of planned retail cannabis licenses, the department has put one of its top officials on leave.
Jorge Pupo, the agency’s deputy executive director, has been temporarily moved out his position, a Department of Taxation official confirmed to Leafly on Monday. The decision came from Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office on Friday, according to a Department of Taxation source not authorized to speak on the topic, and did not specify a return date.
“All I’m able to say is he’s on leave,” said Eden Larson, a Department of Taxation spokesperson.
Sisolak’s office did not immediately respond to multiple requests for comment.
Lawsuit Exposes Nevada’s Sketchy Cannabis Licensing Practices
Over the course of the past year, Pupo has emerged at the center of what’s become the biggest scandal in Nevada’s two-and-a-half-year history of legal retail cannabis. Promoted in 2017 to oversee the launch of adult-use sales in the Silver State, Pupo testified in June as part of a lawsuit that he shared meals with attorneys and dispensary owners before changing criteria for retail applicants. He has testified in court that those contacts did not ask him to alter the selection process.
But in an Aug. 23 ruling, Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez wrote that the close relationships between Pupo and the industry created the potential for abuse. She said various factors—including Pupo’s personal relationships with industry members, an easily manipulated diversity requirement, and the department’s hiring of improperly trained temp workers who were never subjected to background checks—“created a process which was partial and subject to manipulation by applicants.”
Leafly has attempted to contact Pupo multiple times for comment. A Department of Transportation spokesperson