Securing cash and drug: the other side of Nevada’s pot business

Lenny Davis spent much of his 31-year career in law enforcement busting down doors to confiscate illicit marijuana and piles of drug money. Some of the dealers he locked up are still in prison.

Phil Gervasi busted drug dealers as an officer with the New York City Police Department, and spent 17 years with the Clark County School District police.

These days, Davis and Gervasi are part of security firms competing for deals with dozens of Clark County medical marijuana businesses.

Las Vegas-based Unity One Inc., for which Gervasi is director of community services, struck nondisclosure agreements with more than 20 medical marijuana business applicants in Clark County.

Davis, an owner of Team Phoenix Security, said he has letters of intent from at least eight applicants.

Both companies are staffed with former law enforcement officers, federal agents and military personnel.

“It is kind of like we’re going to the other side, but it is a legal business, and we do have the knowledge training and expertise to mitigate many of the risks,” said Davis, who led a government seizure of 985 pounds of pot in Las Vegas 15 years ago. “I’ve had a couple soul-searching days, but at the end of the day, I’m also a businessman.”

So far, 109 companies are vying for at least 40 medical marijuana business licenses in Clark County. The successful applicants will operate dispensaries where the drug is sold, production plants, cultivation warehouses and a testing lab.

Across the country, financial institutions are turning away marijuana companies because marijuana remains illegal under federal law. That means pot business owners must find ways to protect their cash, along with the product.

Unity One would stress “boots on the ground” enforcement, with officers on site 24 hours a day, Gervasi said.

“We don’t dial 911 and wait for local law enforcement,” he said. “We’re just starting in the (marijuana) business, but we know security from top to bottom.”

Should the federal government crack down on medical marijuana companies, Davis said, “we would divest ourselves completely of these kinds of operations.”


Security teams are part of a rush of ancillary businesses expected to crop up in Nevada with the legalization of medical marijuana dispensaries.

Earlier this year, the U.S. Treasury and Justice departments set strict guidelines for financial institutions accepting money from pot companies in states where the business is legal. Banks must review state license applications and look for red flags that could reveal illicit activity, as well as file “suspicious activity reports” for questionable transactions from marijuana clients.

Cash-payment kiosks that track and record each transaction could help eliminate those questions for banks.

Mark Goldfogel, the CEO of Denver-based C4Ever Systems, which designs cannabis kiosks, expects Southern Nevada dispensaries to embrace the technology.

The support system for C4Ever is based in Las Vegas, and Goldfogel anticipates planting more kiosks in Nevada than any other state with legalized marijuana. He compared the technology to slot machines that keep dollars locked in the terminals.

“Of every state in the union, Nevada understands how to secure cash better than anybody,” he said.

The technology is simple: a customer selects a product, places the order and pays at the kiosk, receives a receipt and picks up the drug from a “bud tender” at the dispensary.

The kiosk provides a sales report, and cameras capture the patient who buys the drug.

In March, Goldfogel’s company partnered with Kansas City, Mo.-based Agrisoft Development Group LLC, which specializes in software for medical and recreational cannabis businesses.

“Other solutions have to be in place for these business owners because they have to deal in cash,” Lisa Stewart, an Agrisoft spokeswoman, said in reference to reluctance from banks. “At least, in the work place, they can have everything secure.”

Agrisoft is in talks with Clark County medical marijuana applicants, and the company is ensuring their software complies with Nevada law. Argisoft and C4Ever hope to make kiosks available in the state as soon as marijuana business licenses are awarded, according to Stewart.

Goldfogel provides dispensaries the kiosks and maintenance and charges a 1.75 percent transaction fee for all the money processed. He guarantees to modify the kiosks to meet future federal guidelines.

“I’m selling this to dispensaries, but really I’m building this for banks,” he said. “I’m not selling a tool. I’m selling a solution.”


As dispensaries and cultivation warehouses start to open across the valley later this year, the pot industry is expected to attract millions of dollars and create thousands of new jobs.

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who authored the 2013 bill to legalize dispensaries in Nevada, envisions progress in medical marijuana research, a push for solar-powered grow facilities, and more cannabis-related businesses moving to Nevada because of its corporate tax structure.

“You can already feel the positive impact it’s had, and it’s only going to grow,” he said.

Joe Brezny, executive director of the Nevada Cannabis Industry Association, said the Las Vegas tourism industry and the marijuana business are a good fit.

He imagines independently owned hotels near dispensaries marketing to medical marijuana patients, offering menus and delivery options, and allowing them to consume the drug at the hotels.

“That’s a concern for tourists,” said Brezny, who is pushing for outright pot legalization. “Are they going to get in trouble with their hotel or have problems with consumption?”

Meanwhile, Davis and Gervasi want medical marijuana business owners surrounded by piles of cash and cannabis to feel as safe as a patient toking up at home.

“This marijuana is for the patients, and if you don’t have a marijuana card, you should’t be there,” Gervasi said. “We don’t want to have any problems inside these establishments. I don’t decide who gets the medical marijuana card, but I will decide who goes inside.”

Contact reporter David Ferrara at 702-387-5290 or Follow him on Twitter: @randompoker.

A Facebook-branded space inside of Macy’s at the Fashion Show shopping center
A Facebook-branded space inside of Macy’s at the Fashion Show shopping center will showcase 13 small businesses in November and December and seven in January. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
T-Mobile uses ticketing data to plan for event
T-Mobile Executive Director of Arena Operations explains how ticket sales data and demographics help plan staffing, vendors, parking and operations for an event.
Costco opens its doors in southwest Henderson
Costco has opened its fifth Las Vegas-area location near the intersection of St. Rose Parkway and Amigo Street. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas strip mall and office park
The Krausz Cos. and WG Group bought a strip mall and an office park in Las Vegas for nearly $80 million total. They acquired a portion of Tropicana Beltway Center in the southwest valley for $59 million. They also acquired the Westbay office complex in the Las Vegas Medical District. The buyers are former owners of The Gramercy, a once-mothballed mixed-use project in the Las Vegas suburbs. They sold The Gramercy in phases for more than $100 million.
Mario Barth talks about the growth of the tattoo industry
Celebrity tattoo artist and business owner Mario Barth talks about the growth of the tattoo industry at The World of Tattoo industry trade show at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas
$7.5M Las Vegas pot dispensary opens near Las Vegas Strip
Planet 13, which bills itself as one of the largest dispensaries in the world, opened to the public Thursday. It has entertainment including an interactive floor and floating orbs. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Caesars CEO to step down next year
Caesars Entertainment Corp. CEO Mark Frissora will leave the casino company in February. Frissora has been CEO since July 2015. He was named CEO right after Caesars' operating company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Caesars Entertainment emerged from bankruptcy protection in October 2017 Before Caesars, Frissora spent seven years as chairman and CEO of Naples, Fla.,-based Hertz He led the consolidation of the rental-car industry through Hertz‘s acquisition of the Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group.
Planet 13 in Las Vegas adds twist to marijuana dispensary look
Planet 13, which bills itself as one of the largest dispensaries in the world, opened to the public Thursday. The dispensary is located near the intersection of Desert Inn Road and Sammy Davis Jr. Drive, near Trump International, in Las Vegas. Planet 13 has plans in the future for a coffee shop, a tasting room for marijuana-infused beer and wine, a lounge for consuming marijuana on site if that is legalized and space for food.
Caesars Entertainment opening 2 resorts in Dubai
Cove Beach will open on Meraas’ Bluewaters Island in Dubai in November and Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai and The Residences at Caesars Palace Bluewaters Dubai will open in December. (Caesars Entertainment)
Bellagio, MGM Resorts International’s luxury hotel turns 20
The more than 3,000-room Bellagio hotel is situated on the site of the former Dunes Hotel. The Dunes was imploded in 1993, and construction of the Bellagio started in 1996. It cost $1.6 billion to build, making it the most expensive hotel in the world at the time. The Bellagio was former Wynn Resorts Ltd. Chairman and CEO Steve Wynn’s second major casino on the Strip after The Mirage. MGM Resorts International acquired the property from Steve Wynn in 2000. (Tara Mack/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Facial recognition software at G2E – Todd Prince
Shing Tao, CEO of Las Vegas-based Remark Holdings, talks about his facial recognition product. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former NBA player, Shaquille O'Neal, speaks about his new Las Vegas chicken restaurant
Former NBA player, Shaquille O'Neal, speaks about his new Las Vegas chicken restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Bobby Baldwin to leave MGM
MGM Resorts International executive and professional poker player Bobby Baldwin is set to leave MGM.
Caesars has new armed emergency response teams
Caesars Entertainment Corp. has created armed emergency response teams. They are composed of former military and law enforcement officials. "These teams provide valuable additional security capabilities,” Caesars spokeswoman Jennifer Forkish said. Caesars is hiring Security Saturation Team supervisors, managers and officers, according to LinkedIn. The company did not say how many people it plans to hire for the units. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas, airlines prepare for CES
CES in January is expected to attract more than 180,000 attendees. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
AGS partners with Vegas Golden Knights
AGS is the nation’s second-largest manufacturer of Class II slot machines used primarily in tribal jurisdictions. It announced a marketing partnership with the Vegas Golden Knights NHL team. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lehman Brothers bet big on Las Vegas
Lehman Brothers collapsed 10 years ago, helping send the country into the Great Recession.
Fremont9 opens downtown
Fremont9 apartment complex has opened in downtown Las Vegas. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @marcusvillagran
Ross & Snow launches in Las Vegas
Luxury shoe brand Ross & Snow has opened in Las Vegas, featuring "functional luxury" with premium shearling footwear. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remote Identification and Drones
DJI vice president of policy and public affairs discusses using remote identification on drones. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Drones and public safety in Nevada
Two representatives in the drone industry discuss UAV's impact on public safety. (Bailey Schulz/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Frontier Airlines to launch flights from Las Vegas to Mexico
Frontier, a Denver-based ultra-low-cost carrier, will become the first airline in more than a decade to offer international service to Canada and Mexico from Las Vegas when flights to Cancun and Los Cabos begin Dec. 15. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren addresses Oct. 1 lawsuits
MGM Resorts International Chairman and CEO Jim Murren addresses criticism his company has received for filing a lawsuit against the survivors of the Oct. 1 shooting. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International opens the doors on MGM Springfield
Massachusetts’ first hotel-casino opens in downtown Springfield. The $960 million MGM Springfield has 252 rooms and 125,000-square-feet of casino. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts International prepares to open MGM Springfield
Las Vegas-based MGM Resorts International gave news media and invited guests a preview of the $960 million MGM Springfield casino in Massachusetts. The commonwealth's first resort casino will open Friday, Aug. 24. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
A Walk Through Circus Circus
It only takes a short walk through Circus Circus to realize it attracts a demographic like no other casino on the Strip: families with young children. (Todd Prince/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morphy Auctions, a vintage slot machines seller, wants gaming license
Vice president Don Grimmer talks about Morphy Auctions at the company's warehouse located at 4520 Arville Street in Las Vegas on Thursday, Aug. 16, 2018. (Rick Velotta/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada's venture capital money doesn't stay in state
Zach Miles, associate vice president for economic development for UNLV, said there’s venture money in Southern Nevada, “but trying to find the right groups to tap into for that money is different.” According to a 2017 report from the Kauffman Foundation, Las Vegas ranked number 34 out of 40 metropolitan areas for growth entrepreneurship, a metric of how much startups grow. With a lack of growing startups in Las Vegas, investment money is being sent outside of state borders. The southwest region of the U.S. received $386 million in funding in the second quarter, with about $25.2 million in Nevada. The San Francisco area alone received about $5.6 billion. (source: CB Insights)
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like