Report: Vegas grow house hid unregistered pot during audit

Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 8:19 PM PST
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LAS VEGAS (AP) — A state board charged with overseeing Nevada’s booming marijuana industry suspended the license of a cannabis grow house near Las Vegas on Tuesday after inspectors said they found unregistered plants at the facility that pose an “immediate threat to public health and safety.”

Helping Hands Wellness Center is accused of using a storage closet and the facility’s attic to hide untagged and untested cannabis plants from auditors. State officials warned that plants not registered to Nevada’s regulatory “seed-to-sale” tracking system are susceptible to entering the illicit market.

The board said it had conducted a monthslong investigation into Helping Hands before voting unanimously Tuesday afternoon to force the North Las Vegas production and cultivation facility to close its doors and change the locks until business owners can address the state’s concerns.

A lawyer for Helping Hands did not immediately respond to emails requesting comment.

The state’s investigation included on-site inspections and a review of security camera footage that revealed the company’s efforts to keep its stock of untagged plants and cannabis products a secret from auditors, according to a report summarizing the board’s findings obtained by The Associated Press.

During one of the board’s on-site visits Dec. 7, Helping Hands employees were caught on camera discussing “a plan to conceal harvested cannabis” in the attic before allowing the inspectors into the facility.

The footage then showed the employees and a manager “concealing cannabis” in a storage closet while the auditors “conducted their inspection elsewhere in the Facility.” Another employee also was caught on camera talking on the phone about moving untagged cannabis clones — trimmings from a larger plant — from the production house when the auditors left, according to the report.

In addition to hiding the unregistered cannabis plants and products, inspectors noted additional security concerns in their report, including malfunctioning key cards and unlocked doors “that could be pushed open by anyone attempting to enter.”

Helping Hands must correct the issues at its facility with state approval before its license can be reinstated by the board. Until then, according to the board’s emergency suspension order, “no person may enter” the facility except for one designated employee responsible for watering the cannabis plants.

The suspension marked the first issued by the compliance board in 2023 as the state prepares to open its first marijuana lounges this year.

As of this month, there were more than 700 active medical and recreational operational licenses in Nevada, according to data maintained by the board.