The marijuana company that listed former state regulator Deonne Contine as a licensee says it had Contine removed a year ago as secretary of WSCC Inc., which does business as Sierra Well.
State regulators admit the much-ballyhooed list of marijuana business licensees released by the state in the interest of fostering transparency may be inaccurate.
Department of Taxation spokeswoman Eden Larson says the department relies on marijuana establishments to notify the state of changes.
“NAC 453D.438(4)(a) requires written notice to the Department within 10 working days after the date on which a marijuana establishment agent no longer serves as an officer,” Larson said via email. “If an establishment does not notify the Division, then it is possible that the list of Licensees, Owners, Officers and Board Members may include the names of persons who are no longer officers or board members.”
Contine, who set up Nevada’s marijuana regulatory scheme as director of Taxation, says she doesn’t know why the department she once ran has her listed as the holder of eight marijuana licenses.
“I don’t have any marijuana licenses and never have. I don’t have a relationship with that company,” Contine told the Current via email last Wednesday, the day before she quit her job as director of the Nevada Department of Administration, a position Gov. Steve Sisolak appointed her to in February.
“I don’t know why I am on that list – I was only listed as a potential officer for the application – which was not granted,” Contine said in a follow-up email Friday.
But Matt Reyes of WSCC Inc., which operates as Sierra Well, confirms Contine served on the company’s board.
“Deonne Contine worked with Sierra Well for a few months last year on license applications,” Reyes said in an email. “She served as the board Secretary of our company for a short time. She left the company in November 2018, and she was removed as the Secretary.”
“We will check internally to ensure that we have provided the most updated information to the state,” Reyes said, adding he doesn’t know why Contine is still listed as a licensee.
Reyes did not provide the Current with documentation indicating the company directed the state to remove Contine from the company’s eight licenses.
Neither Reyes nor Contine would say whether Contine was paid for her work.
“I helped on an application that was not granted,” Contine said.
A job application cover letter from Contine submitted to the state in January of this year details her work as an attorney from March through December 2018, after leaving the Department of Taxation.
“I worked as an attorney in the private sector for Kaempfer Crowell and WSCC, Inc.,” Contine wrote. “My practice focused on administrative law, regulatory matters, cannabis and liquor issues, state and local taxation (SALT) and related litigation.”
Nevada law requires that public officials observe a cooling-off period following their departure from government service to avoid a revolving door of regulators who leave their government positions and go to work for the industries they previously oversaw.
NRS 281A.410 says a public officer or employee who leaves an agency “shall not, for 1 year after leaving the service of the agency, represent or counsel for compensation a private person upon any issue which was under consideration by the agency during the public officer’s or employee’s service.”
Contine’s name was added to Sierra Well’s existing licenses, some approved during her tenure at the Taxation Department.
Asked if Sisolak was aware of Contine’s connections to the marijuana industry when he appointed her to head up the Department of Administration, a spokesman in the governor’s would only say that “prior to her appointment, she went through the same background process as similar appointees.”
Sisolak hailed SB 32, the bill passed in 2019 mandating release of licensee names, as “an important step in a multi-pronged approach to greater transparency” in the licensing process “so that our marijuana industry can become the gold standard in the nation.”
“This new law is an important step in a multi-pronged approach to greater transparency in marijuana licensing under my administration,” Gov. Sisolak said on Twitter earlier this year. “As our legal marijuana industry has evolved and flourished, it’s more important than ever that the industry and public enjoy a completely open and transparent process, from licensing to operation, so that our marijuana industry can become the gold standard in the nation.”
Sisolak has since lashed out at the industry and formed an emergency task force to delve into the integrity of the state’s licensing, testing and retail regulatory schemes. Industry insiders fear the crackdown may be counterproductive.