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Denying conflict, Crear fails to block cannabis dispensary in his ward

Updated September 15, 2020 - 6:50 am

A roughly 8,400-square-foot cannabis dispensary approved to open in northwestern Las Vegas, with the promise of supplying good-paying local jobs, is poised to become the first retail marijuana store in the city’s Ward 5.

But it is also moving forward without the support of the lawmaker who represents the district on the City Council.

“This is the wrong spot for it,” Councilman Cedric Crear said this month, on the losing end of a 4-2 vote to allow Deep Roots Medical LLC to set up shop at 5991 W. Cheyenne Ave.

Crear objected to the location, which he said would be too close to homes and churches, adding that “an overwhelming amount” of constituents had reached out to him to also convey their opposition.

In the end, his vote did not change the outcome, with colleagues pointing to new jobs and the need to distribute retail marijuana stores more evenly across the city and beyond Wards 1 and 3, which have the only marijuana shops in the city now. The debate was perhaps most noteworthy, however, for ultimately failed efforts to keep Crear out of it.

Conflict of interest?

Before the vote Sept. 2, project representatives raised concerns with the fact that Crear’s brother, Kenneth Crear, serves on the board of directors for Inyo Fine Cannabis Dispensary, which was at the time a plaintiff in litigation against the state over how Nevada awarded multimillion-dollar dispensary licenses. Deep Roots Medical was a named defendant.

Deep Roots Medical urged Cedric Crear to disclose the relationship and recuse himself from a vote, citing a conflict of interest. But Crear, who accused the developer of “attacking my personal character and integrity,” denied there was a conflict. City Attorney Bryan Scott agreed, so long as Crear could say he believed his independent judgment not to be compromised.

The issue, which dominated early parts of the conversation about the project inside council chambers, led some of Crear’s colleagues to offer their own opinion: Councilwoman Michele Fiore said she saw a conflict, while Councilwoman Victoria Seaman noted she was made “really uncomfortable” by the Crear familial connection.

“There’s zero conflict,” Crear insisted. “If there was a conflict, I’d be more than happy to recuse myself.”

Crear wrote a letter to Mayor Carolyn Goodman asking for Fiore to be removed from the mayor pro tem job after Fiore made racially charged comments at a Clark County Republican Party meeting. Fiore ultimately stepped down from that post.

Good community partners

With only Crear and Councilman Stavros Anthony in opposition, the project steamed ahead. Goodman, as she always does, recused herself on the cannabis-related matter because one of her sons owns a dispensary.

The store, which will replace a Dollar General, is fully committed to hiring workers from within the neighborhood at a livable wage with benefits, according to Branan Allison, a founding partner and board member of Deep Roots Medical, which has been in business since 2014.

Allison said the company employs more than 180 people and it vowed to be a good community partner, having already given personal protective equipment to hundreds of seniors and donated school supplies to more than 200 students in Marble Manor.

“We don’t want to be in a location where everybody doesn’t want us,” he said.

‘Hundreds … not happy’

The level of opposition to the store was central to arguments both for and against it. There were 33 notification cards returned to the city in protest out of the 487 mailed to households in the vicinity, according to the city.

“The neighborhood here has had seven months to mobilize some sort of opposition to this application,” said Christopher Molina, an attorney representing Deep Roots Medical. “And there hasn’t been any petitions, there’s no signatures being circulated, there’s really no vocal opposition from the people who actually live here other than a handful of protest postcards.”

But former Las Vegas City Councilman Ricki Barlow, who now is a lobbyist at City Hall after resigning in a campaign fundraising scandal and who lives near the project, said people opposed to it flooded Crear’s office and the city’s main line to complain. The residents want appropriate retail stores for the neighborhood, he added, and not one of the largest dispensaries in the city.

“There’s hundreds of us out here not happy,” he said.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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