Guy Farmer: Sisolak: Pot shops are ‘essential’ businesses

I have good news for potheads and stoners this morning: Gov. Steve Sisolak, who raked in more than $700,000 from the corrupt marijuana industry during his successful 2018 gubernatorial election campaign, has decided that pot shops are "essential" businesses in Nevada, while casinos and restaurants remain closed. Go figure!

Although Sisolak's executive order closes the state's pot shops – including two in Carson City, which voted against the commercialization of "recreational" marijuana – for retail sales, it permits them to deliver "medicine" to their "patients" despite the fact that ex-President Obama's Drug Enforcement Administration classified marijuana as a Schedule One "dangerous drug." Close the schools, but allow pot shops to deliver dangerous pot "gummies" to the kids. Does that make sense?

Sisolak followed the lead of California's ultra-liberal governor, Gavin Newsom, who told all "non-essential" businesses to close while deciding that producing, buying and selling marijuana qualify as "essential activities." According to the conservative Wall Street Journal, Newsom decided that "a pot run is no different than a trip to the pharmacy," adding that Californians "may leave their homes to obtain prescriptions or get cannabis from a license retailer."

"People who are immune-suppressed or have pre-existing respiratory conditions are most likely to get severely ill with coronavirus," including young people who vape or smoke pot, the Journal observed. "There's nothing like an 'essential' business that may make people sicker." Amen!

This echoes my well-informed friend, Genoa attorney Jim Hartman, who knows more about the marijuana business than anyone else I know. "With the dangers of marijuana vaping and smoking affecting your lungs, you'd think the state would be trying to discourage marijuana use when the coronavirus is attacking peoples' lungs," Hartman told me. But no, pot shops are "essential," according to our governor. Oh by the way, March 20 was World Marijuana Day and pot sales are up 30 percent since President Trump declared a national emergency.

The respected Nevada Independent reported that "Nevada has ordered marijuana dispensaries (pot shops, that is) to shutter their storefronts and move to delivery-only models, so regulators are adapting their inspections to help more vehicles get on the road as soon as possible." What do we know about those regulators? you might ask.

Well, we know the marijuana industry is rife with corruption and that the state's regulatory structure is woefully inadequate. And we know that former Tax Commission Director Deonne Contine, who set up the initial regulatory structure before Sisolak named her as his Director of Administration (since resigned), was and may still be deeply involved in the marijuana industry. Her name was on the license of a Reno-based marijuana company. "It must have been a different Deonne Contine," she suggested.

We also know that one of the appointees to the governor's highly touted Cannabis Control Commission is former Gaming Control Board Chairman Dennis Neilander, an attorney who now works for a statewide law firm, Kaempfer/Crowell, that advertises a nine-member "Cannabis Team." Kaempfer/Crowell assures us that Neilander won't be involved with the marijuana business that produces so much revenue for the law firm. Hmmm. Sisolak likes to compare his Cannabis Commission to the Gaming Control Board, an apples-and-oranges comparison.

"Research shows that cannabis smoke affects the lungs the way tobacco does," the Wall Street Journal reported, "and pot can cause serious lung disease, and weaken the immune system." Nevertheless, our governor thinks pot is "essential." How about you?

Correction: I wrote last Saturday that Dr. Anthony Fauci is the director of the National Centers for Disease Control, but he isn't. He's the longtime director of the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.

Guy W. Farmer is the Appeal's senior political columnist.


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