Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt speaks to the RGJ while visiting VFW Post 9211 in Reno on Jan. 30, 2018.
Nevada’s attorney general doesn’t know which which way the state’s top federal prosecutor is leaning on pot
Add Attorney General Adam Laxalt to the growing list of Nevadans waiting to hear from the federal prosecutor who now holds the fate of the state’s budding recreational pot industry.
Laxalt on Tuesday confirmed that he, like U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, has yet to meet Dayle Elieson, Nevada’s new U.S. attorney.
Elieson was appointed the state’s top federal prosecutor on Jan. 5, one day after the Trump administration issued a memo that freed up U.S. prosecutors to enforce federal laws against marijuana, even in states that have legalized use of the plant.
The move sent shockwaves through Nevada’s rapidly growing pot industry, raising fears that have prompted attorneys general and U.S. attorneys in other pot-friendly states to resist the pot protection rollbacks.
But Elieson has remained silent, even with Laxalt, who said he had no idea which way she leaned on pot prosecutions.
Laxalt is the only attorney general from a state where recreational marijuana is legal who has not signed a letter to Congress urging banking reforms for marijuana providers. Laxalt told the Reno Gazette Journal that he felt it was best to save that discussion for Elieson.
Though he hasn’t met her, the GOP front-runner for Nevada governor said that he doubts Elieson’s all that interested in taking down the Silver State’s pot businesses.
“I think a lot of this overblown,” Laxalt said. “I know there’s a lot of concern about what all this means. … I think they’ll likely stay away from our legal, recreational marijuana, but we’ll wait to see what happens.”
Laxalt, who was reached for a brief interview after a campaign stop at a Reno VFW hall, said that if elected governor, he would look to implement criminal justice reforms aimed at stopping the “revolving door” of Nevada inmates who find themselves back behind bars after a prison release. He did not respond to a question seeking specifics on those reforms.
Asked about health care, Laxalt said that while he did not support Gov. Brian Sandoval’s decision to expand Medicaid eligibility as called for under Obamacare, he would not necessarily look to roll it back.
The 2012 expansion of federal health coverage immediately insured some 78,000 of Nevada’s neediest residents, helping to knock 8 percentage points off the state’s tally of uninsured between 2013 and 2015.
Laxalt said he would consider imposing work requirements on those Medicaid recipients, as Kentucky’s Republican Gov. Matt Bevin recently announced he would do in his state.
“I think most Nevadans would assume there already are work requirements and it’s something I certainly would look at to make sure Medicaid remains affordable for our state,” Laxalt said.
Laxalt spent more than an hour talking with veterans during a Tuesday roundtable at Reno’s VFW Post 9211, where he vowed that as governor, he would re-establish the Veterans Suicide Prevention Task Force and make it a priority to hire veterans in state government.
Laxalt, himself a U.S. Navy Veteran, said he would also form a Veterans Summit to bring together military veterans from around the state in an effort to find fixes for what ails veterans services.
“We’re going to pool every single available resource we have in the state and take that around the state,” he said. “We’re going to go where our veterans are. Veterans don’t know what resources are available; they don’t know how to access them.
“So we’re going to bring them around the state.”
That was welcome news to Vietnam veteran Ken Santor, who recommended a state loan package to help returning veterans buy one of Nevada’s increasingly pricey homes.
“Nevada doesn’t do a damn thing for its veterans,” Santor told Laxalt. “You’ve got the VA, but what I’m thinking about is all these young troops coming back. They don’t have any money. The state doesn’t anything to help them.
“The money’s there, it’s just being used in the wrong spot.”
Laxalt did not rule out such a program, but defended Gov. Brian Sandoval’s veterans-focused policies. He said his proposed initiatives are meant to build on those efforts, which have included a $50 million veterans nursing home now under construction in Sparks and a $450,000 memorial to be built near the Capitol building in Carson City.
Laxalt’s recommended package of veterans policies, first unveiled last week at a Las Vegas campaign stop, count as a new plank in a campaign platform that has so far centered largely around drugs, immigration and criminal justice issues.
The first-term attorney general faces Treasurer Dan Schwartz in June’s Republican primary election. The winner of that contest is expected to face a Southern Nevada Democrat, either Chris Giunchigliani or Steve Sisolak, in a general election scheduled for Nov. 6.
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