Attorney General Ford Issues Statement on Court’s Decision in Marijuana Licensing Case

September 4, 2020

Carson City, NV – Today, Nevada Attorney General Aaron D. Ford issued the following statement after the Honorable Judge Elizabeth Gonzales issued her decision and order in a lawsuit brought by unsuccessful applicants in the 2018 retail marijuana store application process. This decision upholds the results of that competition. It will enable retail marijuana stores to open and generate much needed tax revenue and employment for Nevadans in this unprecedented time in our State’s history. The Court also declined to award monetary damages to those who filed suit.  

“While some litigants have characterized this long, hard fought case as a war, my office’s policy is to do justice, which in this instance means opposing this lawsuit in an open, fair manner to enable the Court to determine the legality of the 2018 retail marijuana competition,” said AG Ford. “By upholding the 2018 retail marijuana process, the Court has determined that this nascent industry will move forward consistent with Nevadans’ vote to legalize recreational marijuana in 2016.”

"I want to thank Attorney General Aaron D. Ford and his team for their work on this case," added Governor Steve Sisolak. "I'm pleased that the State will be moving our recreational marijuana industry forward in a positive direction under the leadership of the newly formed Cannabis Compliance Board. I'm confident they will implement lessons learned from this case and become the gold standard for our cannabis industry."

Case Background:

In 2016, Nevada’s electorate voted to legalize recreational marijuana. To carry out the mandate of the voters, the Department of Taxation implemented an impartial and numerically scored competition for applicants to apply to receive a retail marijuana store license. The results of that competition were announced in December 2018.

Litigation was soon initiated by some, but not all, unsuccessful applicants. These cases were consolidated before the Honorable Judge Gonzales. These unsuccessful applicants challenged the results of the competition on various grounds and sought to void those results as unfair. Voiding the results of the competition would cancel the licenses issued and halt the progress of this new legal business in Nevada.

On September 3, 2020, after weeks of trial where the Court received evidence and heard testimony from witnesses, the Court issued its decision and order. The Court issued a limited permanent injunction preventing the State from conducting a final inspection of any applicant who did not disclose in or about December 2018 each owner, officer and board member. Prior to the Court’s order, the Department of Taxation had informed the Court in a public filing that it had eliminated a question of whether four particular entities had disclosed their prospective owners, officers, and board members as part of the September 2018 recreational store marijuana competition. The Court, in its decision and order, did not identify any applicant to whom such a restriction would apply.