Las Vegas Sun

September 23, 2021

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While seeking the votes, medical marijuana investors give campaign cash

On March 5, Clark County Commissioners signaled for the first time that they would allow medical marijuana businesses.

Over the next eight days, investors or companies that would seek the commission’s OK to open a medical marijuana business donated $36,350 to three commissioners reviewing their applications.

Chris Giunchigliani

Chris Giunchigliani

Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani, Mary Beth Scow and Susan Brager all received donations in 14 separate contributions between March 8 and 12, according to a Sun analysis of campaign finance reports.

Since March 1, 14 businesses or investors applying for county medical marijuana permits have contributed 22 times for a total of $56,900. Nearly 40 percent of that came from investors in a single venture, CW Nevada.

Giunchigliani, Scow and Brager are the only three commissioners required to disclose campaign contributions during the year. The other four commissioners are not up for re-election and won’t have to disclose their contributions until January.

Starting today, the commission will begin reviewing medical marijuana applications at a three-day public hearing. Competition is fierce for 18 licenses to sell marijuana to consumers. The industry is expected to be worth tens of millions of dollars.

The three commissioners also received another $45,500 in 20 contributions from 12 law firms. Law firms are not required to publicly disclose their clients seeking permits, but nearly every law office in Southern Nevada has one or more clients seeking medical marijuana licenses.

Scow and Brager each returned a $1,000 contribution from Sweet Goldy, LLC, a company that is applying for a license. Both commissioners said they didn’t want to accept money from a company named as an applicant.

Susan Brager

Susan Brager

Brager said she didn’t take any money from businesses directly applying for medical marijuana licenses. She did accept donations from people with investments in those businesses but said it won’t affect her decision in the application process.

“I probably wouldn’t even know who they were because I was fortunate enough to have an abundance of contributions,” she said. “I don’t know who’s attached to what (business).”

Scow said she doesn’t plan to return any other contributions but she does plan to disclose them at today’s hearing. Giunchigliani said she told several donors to wait until after the medical marijuana selections to make their contributions.

“After we make the decision, if they still agree with my positions, then fine,” she said. “They’re not buying any access or a vote or anything along those lines.”

Scow noted that many of the medical marijuana donors contribute “on a regular basis.”

Clark County commissioner Mary Beth Scow

Clark County commissioner Mary Beth Scow

But since 2010, only three of the 14 donors had given to the three commissioners until this spring. That period covers the last time Giunchigliani, Scow and Brager were actively raising money for an election.

Political contributions from medical marijuana investors or businesses ranged from $50 to $5,000. State law caps contributions from specific people or businesses at $10,000 per candidate per four-year term.

CW Nevada, the venture with the largest share of campaign contributions, is seeking nine licenses — one of the largest requests before the county commission. The company requested six licenses to grow and process marijuana. It’s is also asking for three retail licenses.

CW Nevada investors Timothy Smits Van Oyen and Paul Robarts each gave $2,500 to each of the three commissioners running for re-election. The law firm of another investor, Brian Padgett, also gave $2,500 to each of the candidates. The total from all three was $22,500. Robarts and Van Oyen had not previously given to those three commissioners, according to state records. Padgett’s law office has given more than $15,000 to various candidates in prior elections.

Van Oyen declined to comment. Padgett, a lawyer, did not return calls seeking comment. Robarts could not be reached for comment.

Other political donors with ties to medical marijuana include:

Nevada Medical Marijuana Dispensary: Dr. Nick Spirtos gave $5,000 to Giunchigliani on March 10, his first contribution to her campaign. Spirtos, medical director of the Women’s Cancer Center of Nevada, has a 20 percent share in Nevada Medical Marijuana Dispensary, which is applying for three licenses. Spirtos previously gave $5,000 to Chairman Steve Sisolak in 2011 and $2,000 to Scow in 2010. Dr. Geoffrey Hsieh, a partner in the same venture, also gave $5,000 to Giunchigliani on March 12. It was Hsieh’s first contribution to Giunchigliani, although he’d given to Sisolak and Commissioner Lawrence Weekly in past elections. Spirtos did not return a request for comment. Hsieh could not be reached for comment.

Nevada Organic Remedies: Real estate developer Darren Petersen, who owns a 10 percent share in Nevada Organic Remedies, gave $5,000 each to Brager and Scow in May. Petersen’s company, Petersen Management LLC, gave another $2,500 to Scow and $3,500 to Giunchigliani. Petersen previously contributed to Scow in 2010, but not Brager or Giunchigliani. Nevada Organic Remedies is seeking two dispensary and two other licenses. Petersen did not respond to a request for comment.

LVMC: Attorney D. Neal Tomlinson gave $1,500 to Giunchigliani on March 3, his first donation to Giunchigliani but one of eight he’s made to other candidates since 2010. Tomlinson has a 15 percent stake in LVMC, which has applied for one dispensary and four other medical marijuana licenses. Tomlinson could not be reached for comment.

Nevada Holistic Medicine: Real estate broker Chris Shelton gave $2,500 to Brager on May 16, his first contribution to Brager and one of three he’s made this year. Shelton has a 23 percent stake in Nevada Holistic Medicine, which wants to open two dispensaries and a growing facility. Shelton did not respond to a request for comment.

Greenway Medical: Kenneth Nielsen, a Pennsylvania resident who owns 19.5 percent of Greenway Medical, gave $2,500 to Giunchigliani on March 1, his first and only contribution in Nevada. Greenway Medical is seeking a dispensary license and a growing license. Nielsen could not be reached for comment.

La Casa Verde Operating: Attorney Edward Bernstein’s law firm gave $1,500 to Scow on March 26. The firm has previously given more than $100,000 to candidates, including $1,000 to Giunchigliani in 2010. Bernstein has a 33 percent stake in La Casa Verde Operating, which has applied for one dispensary license. Bernstein did not return a request for comment.

Dr. Florence Jameson, John Griffin and Kevin Hooks gave $250, $100 and $50 respectively to Giunchigliani. Each has an interest in separate companies applying for medical marijuana licenses. None had previously given to Giunchigliani.

Political contributions from medical marijuana applicants

Name Date Amount Recipient
Kenneth and Mariana Nielsen 3/1/2014 $2,500 Chris Giunchigliani
D Neal Tomlinson 3/3/2014 $1,500 Chris Giunchigliani
Florence Jameson 3/8/2014 $250 Chris Giunchigliani
John and Marjorie Griffin 3/9/2014 $100 Chris Giunchigliani
Paul Robarts 3/10/2014 $2,500 Susan Brager
Law Offices of Brian C. Padgett LLC 3/10/2014 $2,500 Mary Beth Scow
Paul Robarts 3/10/2014 $2,500 Mary Beth Scow
Nicola M Spirtos Sole Prop 3/10/2014 $5,000 Chris Giunchigliani
Paul Robarts 3/10/2014 $2,500 Chris Giunchigliani
Law Offices of Brian C. Padgett LLC 3/11/2014 $2,500 Susan Brager
Law Offices of Brian C. Padgett LLC 3/11/2014 $2,500 Chris Giunchigliani
Tim Smits Van Oyen 3/11/2014 $2,500 Chris Giunchigliani
Tim Smits Van Oyen 3/12/2014 $2,500 Susan Brager
Tim Smits Van Oyen 3/12/2014 $2,500 Mary Beth Scow
Geoffrey Hsieh Md Ltd. 3/12/2014 $5,000 Chris Giunchigliani
Petersen Management LLC 3/12/2014 $3,500 Chris Giunchigliani
Edward M Bernstein & Associates Inc. 3/26/2014 $1,500 Mary Beth Scow
Petersen Management LLC 4/3/2014 $2,500 Mary Beth Scow
Kevin Hooks 5/1/2014 $50 Chris Giunchigliani
Darren Petersen 5/8/2014 $5,000 Mary Beth Scow
Darren Petersen 5/14/2014 $5,000 Susan Brager
Chris Shelton 5/16/2014 $2,500 Susan Brager
Total $56,900

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