LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced he is creating a special marijuana task force after learning foreign nationals tried to power-broker their way into Nevada’s legal marijuana market. This move comes after Thursday’s announcement of Ukrainian-connected federal indictments.
Prosecutors allege the money originated with a foreign power, possibly Russia.
New York prosecutors allege that foreign born men attempted to influence U.S. politics by funneling money into U.S. political campaigns which included Nevada Republicans. Records show donations of $10,000 each to Adam Laxalt, the former state attorney general who lost his bid for governor, and Wesley Duncan, who ran unsuccessfully for attorney general.
Laxalt and Duncan’s campaigns both say they did not know the men or what they were planning. Both say they returned the contributions.
It’s also alleged that Igor Fruman hoped the donations would help with getting a recreational marijuana license in Nevada after missing the initial application date for the license. Fruman was not awarded a license.
After learning of the indictments, Sisolak said “That’s something that I would not allow to happen on my watch. I’m outraged that somebody would think they could get away with it, and anybody that participated in it we’re looking for them.”
The governor also released the following statement on Friday morning:
The Governor is outraged by yesterday’s news that a foreign national attempted to influence Nevada’s elections through a million-dollar laundering scheme in order to gain a marijuana license and enter our legalized market.
Yesterday’s indictments and their connections to Nevada, in combination with ongoing issues in Nevada’s legalized marijuana industry – such as illegal sales to minors, serious allegations of manipulated lab results, and a licensing process mired in litigation – have led the Governor to expedite regulatory and enforcement measures. Many of these enhanced measures were originally intended to be implemented at the start of the Governor’s Cannabis Compliance Board, but in the interest of time and the public health and safety of Nevadans, the Governor has formed a multi-state agency special task force to root out potential corruption or criminal influences in Nevada’s marijuana marketplace, effective immediately. Any marijuana entity – licensed or unlicensed – that violates the law will see swift and severe criminal and regulatory action.
The Governor is disappointed in the lack of oversight and the inaction from the state over many years that led us to this critical juncture – including the apparent absence of a single criminal referral by the Marijuana Enforcement Division since the inception of licensed marijuana sales, medical or recreational, in Nevada. Governor Sisolak’s administration is taking immediate action in order to protect the health and safety of Nevadans, the jobs created by the industry, and the long-term sustainability of education funding generated from the legalized marketplace.