Jorge Pupo, a Nevada Department of Taxation official who oversaw the state’s cannabis business application and licensing process last year, has been placed on leave amid court hearings and allegations of improper conduct, according to a Las Vegas Sun report.
The move comes after Clark County District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez ruled Aug. 23 that some cannabis companies that were awarded retail licenses last year could have their licenses frozen due to questions of whether the businesses conducted the required background checks on company ownership. State regulators allegedly changed background check requirements in potential violation of Question 2, the 2016 voter-approved initiative that legalized adult-use cannabis in Nevada, according to a lawsuit filed earlier this year by dispensaries that were denied licenses. The complaint alleges that the Nevada Department of Taxation was not transparent in the scoring and approval of the license applications.
An amended lawsuit, filed Sept. 6, also alleges corruption in the department and accuses department leaders of “engaging in a cover-up of the rampant illegality and corruption that infected the license application process for the recreational dispensaries.” The amended complaint alleges that Pupo, a deputy executive with the Department of Taxation, testified that he was offered jobs by cannabis industry executives that won dispensary licenses, and reiterates points that some license applicants shared close relationships with state employees.
During several appearances on the witness stand during the hearing, Pupo testified that he had contact with representatives of companies applying for business licenses, according to the Las Vegas Sun. Pupo also testified that although he did not believe the licensing process was unfair, it was not perfect, the Las Vegas Sun reported.
“I am concerned given Mr. Pupo’s hearing testimony,” Theodore Parker III, an attorney representing the plaintiffs in the case, told the news outlet. “Moreover, the court’s consideration of the remaining motions might be affected by this and the underlying reasons behind Mr. Pupo’s departure."