Pubdate: Sun, 04 May 2014
Source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (NV)
Copyright: 2014 Las Vegas Review-Journal
Authors: David Ferrara and James DeHaven
Page: 1B


Notable List of Southern Nevadans Making Bids to Garner One of the Pot Permits

At the height of the "Just Say No" campaign in the war on drugs, Sig 
Rogich was a senior adviser to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.

Now Rogich, who runs one of the most powerful public relations firms 
in Nevada, is part of a team looking to snag one of Clark County's 
medical marijuana licenses.

"It was 30 years ago, a lot has changed," Rogich, 69, said of his 
involvement with marijuana's staunch political opponents. "They're 
legalizing it in 22 states now."

Twelve years ago, when Nevada voters considered outright legalization 
of pot, Rogich said that with "the most liberal drug laws in the 
union, Las Vegas would become an ongoing Jay Leno joke."

Eight years ago, amid another marijuana ballot initiative, Rogich's 
firm managed an anti-drug campaign.

Rogich called himself "a very, very, minority small owner" in Deep 
Roots Medical LLC. His partners include former casino owner Gary 
Primm and his son Roger Primm. Rogich's wife, Lori, is listed as the 
registered agent for the company, according to the Nevada secretary of state.

Rogich said he never opposed medical marijuana use on principle, but 
wouldn't say whether he currently approves of recreational use. He 
acknowledges that he used the drug when he was a University of 
Nevada, Reno student in the 1960s, though he didn't volunteer how often.

Rogich is one of a score of political heavyweights jostling for 
Nevada's limited medical marijuana business licenses.

In a review of the 109 companies that pitched 206 proposals for 
medical marijuana licenses in Clark County last week, the 
Review-Journal found not only deep political clout, but ties to the 
casino industry, real estate moguls and several prominent doctors in 
the Las Vegas Valley.

A state law passed last year allows as many as 40 medical marijuana 
business licenses in Clark County for dispensaries, production 
facilities, cultivation warehouses and product testing labs. Those 
licenses can mean big profits in a new and apparently growing industry.

In a study of legal marijuana sales across the country, San 
Francisco-based The Arcview Group projected the Nevada market to be 
worth $9.6 million in 2014.

And if Nevada follows in the footsteps of Colorado and Washington 
state in allowing recreational marijuana use, that market could be huge.

"There's no way to calculate exactly what it'll be worth, but it'll 
be worth a helluva lot of money," said state Sen. Tick Segerblom, 
D-Las Vegas, who authored the medical marijuana bill in the 2013 session.


James Bixler, retiring Eighth District Court judge, formed Greenleaf 
Dispensaries Inc. with two brothers-in-law and his friend, attorney 
Robert Walsh, and applied for dispensary and cultivation licenses.

He said he thought the application process would be like a lottery.

But the forms submitted last week marked just the first step in a 
lengthy application process. On June 5, the commission has scheduled 
hearings for special-use applications from companies that meet 
requirements, which include presenting copies of a deed or lease for 
facilities and passing an FBI background check.

 From that point, applicants must submit documentation to the state 
for provisional certification. With state certification, applicants 
then apply for a county business license.

The judge, who will leave the bench in January, said he reviewed his 
caseload as soon as he decided he wanted to enter the cannabis 
business. He plans to recuse himself from one case that involves 
medical marijuana.

If granted a license, Bixler said he intends to donate some profits 
to drug education and treatment programs.

"Our old War on Drugs is a farce," the judge said. "We're not losing. 
We've lost. We need to step back and take a whole new approach. And 
it needs to start with education. We need to start treating drug 
addicts like drug addicts instead of like prisoners."

Dozens of the applications submitted last week came from shell 
corporations managed by limited liability companies, which are not 
required to list individual officers under Nevada law. Clark County 
requires marijuana business applicants to disclose names of all 
owners, and officials are expected to release those names to the public.

Other notable Nevada public figures getting involved in the new 
marijuana trade include:

Jay Brown, a veteran Las Vegas lobbyist, political insider and 
steward of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's family trust. 
Three medical pot companies registered by his office are shell 
corporations with no individual officers registered with the Nevada 
secretary of state. Brown did not respond to requests for comment.

Brown is only one friend of Nevada's senior senators who wants to get 
in on the ground floor.

In a column titled "Preserving my marriage," Las Vegas Sun Publisher 
and longtime Reid political ally Brian Greenspun recently wrote that 
he would bid for a marijuana license. He did not reveal the name of 
the company. However, license applicant Waveseer LLC was registered 
by The Reid Firm, a law firm managed by Harry Reid's son, Key Reid, 
who is a former general counsel for the Greenspun Corp.

Among the managers of Waveseer is Chicagoan David Rosen, former 
finance director for Hillary Clinton and the Democratic National 
Committee. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has been a staunch supporter of Hillary Clinton.

Rosen's firm, The Competence Group, credits him most recently with 
getting Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn elected. Illinois legalized medical 
marijuana last year.

Former Las Vegas Assemblyman Chad Christensen, who ran for the U.S. 
Senate as a Republican in 2010, teamed up with Daniel Brasov, who has 
25 years of experience in the banking industry, to form Fidelis 
Holdings. The company applied for licenses to operate a marijuana 
dispensary and a cultivation facility.

A devout Mormon, Christensen said he first became a supporter of 
medical marijuana about two years ago, when his wife's lifelong best 
friend was prescribed too much Percocet after a surgery, and her 
heart stopped. "It definitely opened my mind to the fact that these 
prescription narcotics in some cases may not be the only route," 
Christensen said.

Christensen said he plans to bring in medical marijuana 
"heavyweights" from Colorado to help run the company if granted a 
license, considering he has no experience in cultivation and sales.

Despite recent guidelines from the Treasury and Justice departments, 
Banks have shied away from the medical marijuana business because the 
drug is still illegal under federal law. So Christensen said he and 
Brasov had "an application that will address banking" issues, but he 
declined to elaborate.

Former Planet Hollywood Resort President Bill Feather formed Doctors' 
Dispensary LLC with Oscar B. Goodman Jr., an oncologist and son of 
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and former Mayor Oscar Goodman.

The company's lawyer, Raffi Nahabedian, called the younger Goodman a 
consultant, and said Feather wanted to emphasize the medicinal 
advantages of marijuana.

"This can't be a money thing," Nahabedian said. "This has to be real, 
and the only way it's real is if it's part of the medical establishment."

Doctors' Dispensary also lists physician Michael Resnick as a 
manager, and Nahabedian said more physicians would join its advisory board.

Nick Spritos, director of the Women's Cancer Center of Nevada, and 
Geoffrey Hsieh, another oncologist at the center, applied for a 
license under the company Nevada Medical Marijuana Dispensary, Inc. 
Neither doctor could be reached for comment.

Lobbyist and former Nevada legislator David Goldwater created Inyo 
Fine Cannabis Dispensary, Sweet Goldy LLC and Sweet Goldy Production 
LLC. He teamed up with friend Chris Olsen and Greta Carter, president 
of the Cannabis Training Institute in Seattle, to vie for 
cultivation, production and dispensary licenses.

In a telephone interview last week, Goldwater gave his pitch: "We're 
a group that wants to invest and manage this ourselves," touting 
their vested interest in the operation "to literally grow something 
that helps people."

Integral Associates, listed a manager as Unified LLC, which is run by 
Camille Ruvo, wife of Larry Ruvo, philanthropist and senior managing 
director of Southern Wine and Spirits of Nevada, the largest 
distributor of alcoholic beverages on the Strip.

Wellness Connection of Nevada LLC lists Tom Mikovits as a manager. He 
works as a marketing executive for Real Gaming, the online poker site 
that South Point launched earlier this year. He declined to discuss 
the marijuana application.

"It's just too early in the process to even talk about anything," he said.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom