95°F
weather icon Clear

Nevada marijuana official placed on leave

CARSON CITY — A top Nevada marijuana official who has faced criticism in recent months over his conduct during the state’s cannabis licensing process was placed on administrative leave last week, state officials said Monday.

The Nevada Department of Taxation said that Jorge Pupo, the department’s deputy executive director who heads up the marijuana licensing program, had been placed on leave, but could not add any other details because it was a personnel matter.

Dozens of companies sued the state last December after losing out on bids to open new retail marijuana dispensaries. In an amended complaint in the case filed Friday, lawyers for three of those companies who were not awarded licenses argued that there was “widespread corruption” within the Tax Department.

The complaint points to comments made by Pupo while testifying in the case in June, in which he acknowledged that just weeks before applications were evaluated, he had lunches and dinners with dispensary owners and attorney Amanda Connor, who represents several cannabis companies who were awarded licenses.

The lawsuit argued that applicants who met with Pupo “received favorable treatment in exchange. Mr. Pupo allowed favored licensees to call him on his personal cell phone number and provided them with additional instruction regarding the application process.”

Pupo also said while testifying in June several marijuana companies told him to call them if he ever stopped working for the state, though he denied he ever took those as formal job offers.

“They’re just like, Hey, if you leave, you know come see me, we could use you, type thing,” Pupo testified in June.

“In addition to being an ethics violation, offering any ‘compensation, gratuity or reward to any executive or administrative officer … with the intent to influence the officer with respect to any act, decision, vote, opinion or other proceeding, as such officer’ is a felony in the state of Nevada,” the amended complaint said.

A District Court judge ruled in a civil lawsuit last month that the state should have conducted more thorough background checks on applicants for marijuana licenses, a ruling that could affect some companies that were awarded licenses. The lawsuit was filed by losing bidders for marijuana licenses who alleged the state failed to disclose how it had evaluated applications.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Former Nevada Senate leader Kelvin Atkinson sentenced to prison
Former Nevada Senate Majority Leader Kelvin Atkinson, who pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds, was sentenced to 27 months in prison on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trumps Strength is also a Weakness - Video
One of Donald Trump’s greatest strengths — his ability to shape national narratives — is also a great weakness.
Tax the Rich Bus Tour makes a stop in Las Vegas - Video
The Tax the Rich Bus has stopped in Las Vegas as part of its summer tour. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
THE LATEST
Trump aides heading to Nevada Basque Fry

Several current and former aides to President Donald Trump are headed to the annual Basque Fry, an event sponsored by former Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt.