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Hearing resumes before judge in Nevada pot license lawsuits

June 10, 2019
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FILE - In this April 20, 2018, file photo, a customer shops for marijuana at the Exhale Nevada dispensary in Las Vegas. A Nevada judge is being asked to freeze the awarding of new dispensary licenses in the state's booming recreational marijuana sales market. Businesses that lost bids for new licenses last year are challenging the criteria and personnel the state used to award the potentially lucrative permits last year. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A court hearing resumed Monday on complaints by dozens of businesses that Nevada’s marijuana dispensary licensing process is unfair and unconstitutional.

Companies that weren’t approved for new dispensaries want to block the state from issuing the new licenses.

Plaintiffs in at least seven lawsuits complain that the licensing process wasn’t transparent, that temporary workers were improperly used to screen applicants, and the state picked favored winners.

Attorneys for the state and some companies that won licenses are defending the process and personnel used last year to evaluate and rank 462 applications for 61 new dispensary licenses. Data show 16 companies won all those licenses.

Taxation chief Melanie Young said that was because state law doesn’t allow permits to go to low-scoring bidders

The latest state tax data, obtained Monday, show the 65 medical and recreational marijuana dispensaries currently open statewide reported more than $608 million in sales in the 12 months ending March 30.

A total for the fiscal year ending this month could top that figure.

After a week of testimony last month, Clark County District Court Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez scheduled another two days this week and at least two days next week.

Most expect the eventual ruling by Gonzalez to be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Some of those who filed lawsuits maintain the process was unconstitutional. Some seek a do-over. Some want financial damages.

Most complain that applicants’ names were kept secret until last month, when the Legislature passed and Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a law making that information public.

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