New U.S. attorney in Nevada quiet on pot prosecutions


The Justice Department is reportedly rolling back the Obama-era policy of not challenging state laws regarding medical and recreational marijuana use.

For Nevada’s budding marijuana industry, Dayle Elieson’s silence has been deafening.

Nevada’s new top federal prosecutor took office 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.

READ MORE: Nevada officials slam Trump Admin’s pot crackdown — a ‘huge setback’

The move sent anxious shockwaves through Nevada’s burgeoning multimillion-dollar marijuana industry, leaving hundreds of legal pot businesses  to ponder the possibility that federal agents could soon kick down their front door.

Elieson has done nothing to ease those fears. Even as U.S. Attorneys in other pot-friendly states have vowed to fight or ignore the pot protection roll backs, she has refused to comment publicly on whether her office plans to pursue marijuana prosecutions.

A graduate of Brigham Young University, Elieson has spent more than two decades as a state and federal prosecutor in Texas. She does not appear to have any professional experience in Nevada.

She is the only out-of-state attorney U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has so far named to serve as a state’s top federal prosecutor.

A spokeswoman declined to say when Elieson might be willing to speak out. She said the newly named U.S. Attorney also had no comment on her past approach to pot cases, but promised that Elieson would be made available for a one-on-one interview as her schedule permits.

READ MORE: Congressman Mark Amodei to Nevada pot shop owners: ‘Don’t panic’

Meanwhile, Nevada’s pot license holders will have to wait, wonder and, in some cases, question Elieson’s appointment.

“She is an inappropriate pick for Nevada,” said Will Adler, director of the Sierra Cannabis Coalition. “She is not from Nevada, nor has she ever worked here. Nevada has a very unique relation to federal laws, especially when it comes to gaming, mining, prostitution and even marijuana, and I’m not sure if somebody who has never lived in Nevada or worked here could ever be the appropriate pick for being our U.S. attorney, considering that.

“Dean Heller and Cortez Masto both need to step up as our senators and insist on their ability to use the blue slip policy when it comes to the appointment of our U.S. attorney.”

Heller, R-Nev., did not offer a comment for this story.

Masto, D-Nev., issued a statement calling last week’s reversal of existing pot shop protections a “trampling on the will” of Nevadans. She did not respond to further questions about Elieson’s arrival.


The tour of Mynt was a part of the Reno Gazette-Journal’s Know Your City series.
Mark Robison/RGJ

Joey Gilbert, an attorney and co-owner of Mynt Dispensary, urged the new U.S. Attorney to adopt a hands-off approach.

“I would say please focus your resources on the truly dangerous criminals, and those various crimes that jeopardize public safety,” Gilbert said. “We have such oversight, our governor did so many smart things through his task force, to really flush out the problems that we saw in Oregon, Washington and Colorado.

“We’ve gotten ahead of it, and we’ve really become the standard in the country for regulating marijuana. We’re not asking to be treated like the Wild West, we’re just asking you to respect our state law.”

Political leaders, too, have expressed anxiety over Elieson’s arrival.

State Sen. Tick Segerblom, the legislative godfather of Nevada’s pot industry, told the Reno Gazette Journal that all he knew about Elieson was that she was from Texas, “which is kind of scary.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval, who opposed legalizing recreational use, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal he would like Nevada to follow in the footsteps of Colorado, where the U.S. attorney does not plan to change his approach to prosecuting crimes involving recreational marijuana.

The termed-out Republican governor said last week that he was looking forward to receiving “further guidance” from Elieson regarding a feared crackdown on Nevada’s pot operators.

His office did not return requests for comment on whether he’d yet received that guidance.


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