by Jeff German, Las Vegas Review-Journal, February 25, 2022
A Clark County commissioner who questioned how an unfinished marijuana dispensary breezed through licensing hurdles at a site just off the Strip has been hit with a state ethics complaint.
But the commissioner, Ross Miller, isn’t backing down.
Miller called the complaint “absurd and fanciful” Friday and said he will continue to press for answers about how the dispensary, Thrive Cannabis Marketplace, was able to get a business license without a public hearing.
“I won’t be silenced by their intimidation tactics,” Miller said. “All I’ve done at this point is ask questions about how this might have happened, as any member of the public might do. This just shows me that there might be something that we need to get to the bottom of.”
Dennis Prince, the lawyer for Cheyenne Medical, LLC, which owns Thrive, filed the ethics complaint against Miller on Thursday. The complaint accuses him of making defamatory comments about the business and having “extensive conflicts of interests” because Miller’s law firm once sued Thrive and represented a dozen of the company’s competitors.
Miller, a lawyer and former Nevada secretary of state, had raised concerns about the regulatory process involving Thrive. The dispensary site, at 2975 Sammy Davis Jr. Drive, is next door to topless club Sapphire Las Vegas.
The commissioner said Friday that he first asked questions within the county government about the dispensary’s case in December, but still hasn’t received any answers.
Prince said the complaint is related to Miller’s participation in a high-profile 2020 trial stemming from the suit involving Thrive. Miller had dubbed the trial “World War Weed” in the media.
Miller’s firm also once represented another marijuana company vying to open a dispensary at the Sammy Davis Drive site, Prince alleged.
“Mr. Miller used his status as an elected official to injure Thrive, mislead the public, and advance the pecuniary interests of clients that he represents in a private capacity,” Prince said in a letter to County Manager Yolanda King, informing her about the ethics complaint.
“This is a gross conflict of interest that completely undermines Mr. Miller’s integrity and impartiality as a public officer.”
Ross Armstrong, executive director of the Nevada Commission on Ethics could not be reached for comment.
Prince called for Miller to abstain from future commission votes relating to Thrive and all matters involving the cannabis industry. Prince also demanded Miller recant the statements he made about Thrive in the Review-Journal story and on social media.
War of Words
But Miller instead Friday engaged in a war of words with the marijuana company.
“There is zero basis for allegations of wrongdoing because we (the County Commission) haven’t taken any action,” Miller said. “I also haven’t done any work with my law firm since I’ve been a commissioner on behalf of any client. And I don’t have any ongoing representation of these clients.”
Miller was elected to the County Commission in November 2020.
Thrive was quietly licensed in January without a public hearing before the commission, in possible violation of a 2019 state law that bans marijuana operations within 1,500 feet of a casino, Miller has said.
The dispensary site is less than 1,500 feet away from Resorts World Las Vegas, the Strip’s newest megaresort, according to Miller and a county report.
Thrive has a lease to run the dispensary at the Sammy Davis Jr. Drive property, which is owned by one of Sapphire Las Vegas’ partners, Michael Talla.
The Nevada Resort Association, the influential lobbying arm of the casino industry, has also voiced opposition to the dispensary site.
Prince and Thrive argue that the special use permit for the site near Sapphire Las Vegas was issued in 2017, long before the 1,500-foot rule became law in 2019. Resorts World wasn’t open when the law was passed.
Miller has contended since December that the county’s application process, in this case, circumvents the 2019 state law that applies the same tough regulatory standards for the casino industry to marijuana dispensaries.
“And so when you look at the way this was handled, you can’t tell me with a straight face that we’re regulating marijuana like gaming,” Miller said earlier this year. “It’s a joke.
“I would say I have big concerns about the approval process that allowed this applicant to get full county and state licenses.
“Only a few days before they were given these approvals, they were in front of the entire County Commission asking for a two-year extension where staff said they weren’t even close to completing what they were required to do.”
Contact Jeff German at [email protected] or 702-380-4564. Follow @JGermanRJ on Twitter. German is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing.