Weed industry: CCB jeopardizes jobs amid stellar sales

Agent card snafu leaves employees unable to work, new hires delayed

By: - October 26, 2020 6:02 am

Even if current laws are a deterrence, they are not being applied equally, state lawmakers were told. (Image by Stay Regular from Pixabay)

Nevada’s cannabis industry is a bright spot in the state’s otherwise dismal pandemic economy, with July sales of $82 million up 37 percent over last year, and August sales of $83.9 million up 34 percent year-to-year.  But a regulatory snag is preventing hundreds of Nevadans from going to work as trimmers, budtenders, delivery drivers and more.  

“…I cannot overstate how challenging and burdensome this has been to the industry,” says Brandon Wiegand, Regional General Manager of The + Source. Wiegand praised the CCB’s issuance this week of a 90-day extension on expiring agent cards. 

“Although the new guidelines will offer some relief, these issues are costing the State tax revenue and preventing the industry from putting Nevadans back to work when they need it most,” he said via email.  

“We’ve had to sideline team members, and several have resigned over our inability to put them on the work schedule due to their inability to get a renewal issued,” Wiegand said. “Our Reno store operated at a significantly reduced capacity due to hired staff not being able to get their temp cards in a timely manner.”

How extensive is the backlog?  The state won’t say, but industry insiders, who asked not to be named for fear of retaliation, suggest it’s in the thousands.   

“I personally submitted renewals prior to my cards expiring at the end of June and only just received the approval October 22,” says Wiegand. “I am not alone on these issues – I have spoken with other operators who have dealt with the same or similar challenges.”

“I have people who applied in January and February and have not received their renewals,” says Christine Gamez, General Manager of Jade Cannabis in Reno.  “No one at the state responds to our emails but they are quick to cash our checks.”

“It does affect our ability to get people going,” says Bob Summers of NV Botanical Science in Northern Nevada.

“The process of receiving these agent cards is antiquated and not conducive toward job creation and growth of the industry,” Dani Baranowski of the Chamber of Cannabis, a non-profit representing industry interests, wrote in public comment to the Board. 

“Potential candidates for employment and employees renewing their cards are facing processing times of over one month, which results in devastating delays of employment and hinders our industry’s potential for growth.”

The CCB, a creation of state lawmakers and Gov. Steve Sisolak, is the third agency to regulate the marijuana industry in as many years. At a recent workshop, Executive Director Tyler Klimas attributed the backlog in issuing new cards and renewals to COVID-19, as well as the transition of authority from the Department of Taxation to the CCB. 

Klimas was appointed to his post by Sisolak in September 2019, nine months before the CCB assumed authority in July.  He declined to be interviewed for this story about the planning that went into the transition. 

“Effective immediately, the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB) will be honoring a grace period of 90 days from the original date of expiration for all current or recently expired agent card holders… ” says a letter from Klimas posted this week on the CCB’s website.  

Wiegand points out the extension applies only to those who renew and pay fees by the expiration date. 

“Currently, if an agent misses their renewal deadline for any reason, they are in for a long wait and we can’t add them to a work schedule until they receive their temp card,” he said. “If an agent is submitting an entirely new application and not a renewal, then they are also likely to be stuck waiting.”

 “This is not how it’s supposed to work.” says Wiegand, pointing to statutory language added in 2017 “to make sure these issues did not arise again.” 

State law says an application is deemed conditionally approved if the Board fails to act within 45 days.  It also says an applicant for registration or renewal is “deemed temporarily registered” on the date an application is submitted. Temporary registrations expire in 45 days.  

CCB spokeswoman Tiana Bohner says the laws “only apply to completed applications which includes proof of fingerprinting and payment received that have not been reviewed by CCB staff. Applications that have not been reviewed or acted upon by CCB staff do not extend beyond 45 days of submittal.

“They don’t accept on-line forms of payment.  You have to mail a check,” Baranowski told the Current of Accela, the state’s reportedly clunky software. “Millennials or Gen Z don’t have access to checks. We have to pay to get one.”

“The fee used to be $75 for a year.  Now, it’s $150 for two years — before you’ve had a chance to work in the industry.  How is that inclusive?” she asks.

“They (CCB) are going around and doing a lot of audits,” Baranowski said of what she sees as the CCB’s attempt to flex regulatory muscle. “Seems like their priorities are a little skewed.” 

“No one on that side (the state) is held accountable, ever,” said Gamez.

“Agent cards is an issue that we’re working through,” Klimas said at a CCB meeting this week. “Certainly COVID did not help with processing agent cards.” 

“We hear the industry,” he said. “They’ve reached out to us and talked about the speed in which temp cards are being able to be delivered to agents.  We are working very diligently to speed things up. Some things were simply out of our control as part of our transition over to the CCB.”  

The delays in issuing agent cards did not prevent the CCB from issuing two complaints this week against operators alleged to have employees with expired cards.   

“Hearing that the CCB is  seeking disciplinary actions over expired agent card issues is concerning given the current challenges,” Wiegand said, adding The + Source prides itself on compliance. “I believe the CCB has an obligation to create the conditions necessary for operators to remain in compliance.”

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Dana Gentry
Dana Gentry

Dana Gentry is a native Las Vegan and award-winning investigative journalist. She is a graduate of Bishop Gorman High School and holds a Bachelor's degree in Communications from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.