SegerblomRichard S. “Tick” Segerblom is a native-born Southern Nevadan whose family is well-known to longtime Las Vegans. A fourth-generation Nevada elected official, Segerblom’s family began in Nevada politics in 1906. Tick’s mother Gene Segerblom was a lifelong school teacher in Boulder City, which ensured that virtually every Boulder City child raised during that era had contact with the Segerblom family. Gene Segerblom went on to serve on the Boulder City Council as well as in the Nevada State Assembly.

Tick Segerblom began his political career as an assemblyman and is currently a state senator best known for serving as the point person for passing the recreational marijuana law in Nevada. Next, he intends to run for a vacant Clark County Commission seat.

Vegas Legal Magazine interviewed Segerblom in his Downtown Las Vegas law office.

Vegas Legal Magazine: Describe, if you would, the Las Vegas that you grew up in — it was a completely different place.

Tick Segerblom: It was a very small town, although really even today in certain circles it’s the same handful of people, so it’s still a small town in essence. We would cruise Fremont Street on Friday nights. That’s who we were. To show you how things have changed, I was on juvenile probation for stealing an empty beer keg and throwing firecrackers!

VLM: One of the reasons I moved here when I was a kid was that you could ride a motorcycle at age 14.

 TS: I had a paper route, I had a Honda motorcycle when I was 14. That was the world back then, the Eisenhower see no evil, hear no evil philosophy. But the reality is, when you look back on it, it was so isolated and insulated. We’ve come so far since then, which is fantastic.

VLM: Freedom was a big part of it back then. If you weren’t messing with anybody, you hadn’t done anything wrong. That was just part of the mindset.

TS: I remember some people thought you were a pariah if you were from Nevada. You had relatives around the country who saw you buy something with a silver dollar. You’d have a silver dollar, and they’d [ask], “What’s that?” They’d never seen a silver dollar before. We were Sin City. To them we were an evil place where we had gambling and prostitution. We took a kind of pride in being from Nevada, in being ourselves. It was just who we were. Another thing, it was a racist town at the time, the Mississippi of the West. There were segregated schools, you would never think of marrying someone or dating someone of a different race.

VLM: Tell us about your family background because a lot of people don’t know that your family background has some interesting players.

TS: Well actually on my mother’s side they’re from Northern Nevada, and on her father’s side they were from Ruby Valley, which is where the Pony Express riders and drivers were back in the 1860s. On her mother’s side they were from Winnemucca. My mother’s grandfather had a gold mine and he owned the house of prostitution — it’s not like he ran it but he owned the house where it was. He was a big deal, he was a state senator from Winnemucca and actually voted against women’s right to vote — and when it passed he couldn’t go back to Winnemeucca. He went to San Francisco instead. To show how things come full circle, his daughter, my grandmother, went to the state Legislature and then my mother of course goes to the state Legislature.

VLM: And she was a firebrand.

TS: She was a firebrand. What I learned from her is I think it’s easier just to be open, be who you are, no games. Especially from rural Nevada, it was “you are who you say you are,” the cowboy philosophy.

VLM: How long did she serve?

TS: Just eight years. She was on the City Council in Boulder City before that, she was the government teacher in Boulder City for 20 years. I had her for two classes. Everybody in Boulder City, you had to take her class to graduate. That’s the reason she was elected to the Legislature — it’s a Republican district but she taught everybody, everybody knew her. She built a tremendous amount of respect from being the government teacher.

VLM: What’s your history in politics?

TS: I was just always raised to believe politics was an honorable thing to do, but I really became revolutionized during the Vietnam War when I was in college. Everyone was being drafted and there was just lots of stuff — my sophomore year when I’m in L.A., Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. I dropped out of school and later on in my senior year is when Reagan tear gassed the Berkeley kids — just all those things where you get kind of, I wouldn’t say radicalized, but you learn how to hate “the man.” I think over time most people of my generation have kind of just given in, but I kind of like to poke a finger in the man’s eye every now and then.

But the fun part is to see what we thought in the ’60s, with marijuana for example, we thought within a few years it would be legal. We thought we were going in that direction, but then after Carter left for Reagan, it turned all the way around and then just kept getting worse and worse and worse — and then to see it finally come full circle, and now we’re back to where we were literally in the late ’60s. I mean can you believe that you can actually buy marijuana — you can’t smoke on the street, yeah, but you can carry around an ounce and the cops can’t do anything.

VLM: Did Nevada do it the right way?

TS: The way they made it legal, they started with medical. I never knew it had medical properties — to us it was just for listening to music. The medical was something that came out more is recent years.

I would prefer the federal government not make it legal, because the longer it’s illegal, the more we can create our own industry and create this vibrant economy around it, which really is exciting. I mean, I’ve been around the politics field for a few years and the most fun is the marijuana people because they’re still optimistic. You go to parties, you go to their fundraisers, and they are just a very energized group of people. (Probably because they’re all felons!)

VLM: In the old days we were always the first mover, the first mover in gaming, the first mover in hands-off prostitution …  But here we didn’t act on marijuana until after other states such as Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Was that a smart path?

TS: I think so. When we finally came around to it, we had an example to use.

I think the way it happened was, when I was growing up, you know, the Mormons were a player, but they weren’t running the show, and somehow or other they really became a power, maybe in the ’80s or ’90s. And they were kind of dictating social mores, and so marijuana was pretty much off the table, even though I think most people here, as we’ve discovered, didn’t have any problem with it.

But when you go to the Legislature trying to pass a marijuana bill, we couldn’t even get a hearing. The leadership would say, oh, no one wants that. Even though the public mood was there.

When I passed my first (marijuana) bill in 2013 my co-sponsor was Mark Hutchison, a big shot in the Mormon Church, and his whole thing was, “it’s in the Constitution and I am a constitutional lawyer, we have to give people a right to obey the Constitution.” So, he just saw it from a constitutional perspective. I think he also probably saw that there was a good business opportunity there, which there is. Since that time I think some of that group has kind of gone further to the right and said we don’t want to get involved directly, but there’s still a lot of Mormons involved in the (marijuana) business.

VLM: Was that frustrating seeing the people of Nevada putting their voices out there in support of marijuana, and at first nobody in politics did anything?

TS: I saw it from a distance because I wasn’t in politics when the first vote for medical marijuana happened. Then I got to the Legislature and started seeing people trying to bring up bills but not get a hearing — it was kind of like, what’s up with this? Because medical was put in the Constitution by 67 percent of the vote, it was a no-brainer.

But that’s been my experience all along — the politicians are so far behind the curve as far as the public goes. The voters are there. They’ve already accepted it and they’re ready to move on, tax it, test it, and if people want to use it that’s fine. People know that it’s not the devil weed, it doesn’t make you crazy. Compared to other drugs it’s much more benign.

VLM: When your bill starts to gain traction, do you have time to ask, “Are we ready for this? Is it going to really happen?”

TS: I kept thinking that it’s not going to happen. We got to the Senate fairly easily because of Hutchison but then it got to the Assembly, then the Republicans started to say, oh my God, what are we doing here? It was a two-thirds bill, you know, you never get two-thirds on anything. So, we need one Republican, and the Republican caucus made it a litmus test — if you’re Republican, you have to vote against it.

And then Michele Fiore, as crazy as she is, stepped up and voted for it. Then of course the governor had to sign it. I thought there’s no way in hell, but he did. It was one of those things where the stars were in alignment. The truth was there really was no organized opposition.

VLM: Are there are there any inside stories to tell about the governor’s handling of it?

TS: If there are I don’t know them. The truth is, there are still a lot of big-time Nevada families who saw this as a business opportunity and so they were in there pushing him to do it. The governor said, I want to come out and implement it six months early. How great is that?

VLM: Are we are ahead of California in some ways?

TS: Both of our laws passed last November, and were supposed to kick in the 1st of 2018. Ours kicked in six months early.

In California, they’re trying to take an unregulated Wild West market and put in some kind of regulation. It’s gonna be almost impossible in the short term.

VLM: Isn’t it everywhere in Southern California, which dilutes the chances for maximum tax revenues?

TS: Yeah, there’s no statewide tax even on it, there’s no testing requirements. There’s no seed-to-sale requirements. They got the people up north growing outside by the ton, and they wanted it to stay illegal. When someone applies for a license, what do you do? They show up and you say, OK give us your tax returns for the last five years. Well, these guys, these growers, have never paid taxes. You may be the best grower or the best whatever, but they have no history about working within the system. So what do you do when the guy says, well I’ve been growing for the past five or 10 years, but I don’t have any tax records? Can you say, oh well go ahead and stamp that person, that’s OK? I have talked to accountants and they’re trying to reconstruct these past several years so these growers in California can even apply.

VLM: In Nevada, the governor asked for a genuine revenue projection — when you wave $70 million around, you get people’s attention, and he said we can move forward. Thoughts?

TS: That was the price he had for the ESAs (education savings accounts), the voucher program. I think he was thinking, well, I’ll use the $70 million from the voucher program and that will be the justification for it. But the Democrats killed the voucher program.

But the $70 million, that’s just the 10 percent tax he added. And during the State of the State he said, I’m going to propose a 10 percent tax. I was like, wow, I can’t believe it. That’s $700 million in sales over two years. That’s a shitload of money, starting from scratch essentially.

But still, it was a two-thirds tax and the Republicans were going to hold it hostage until the very end. They caved because they wanted the money. Tying the ESAs to the marijuana tax was going to be their hill to die on.

VLM: So ESAs, for Democrats they were not going down that road …

TS: The reality is, for Republicans, it’s more about trying to gut the teachers’ union, because they don’t care about education. If you can give somebody $5,000 to go to Gorman who’s already going to Gorman, then what’s the point of it? So it really was a litmus test for us.

I didn’t realize this until this debate came up, but we already pay $700 million for charter schools. That’s an incredible amount of money in Nevada for these little schools which have very little regulation …

The key to a democracy is public education, and we have to be committed to that. I’m actually going to propose a 1-cent sales tax in Clark County just to go to teacher salaries, and to use it for teachers and also to enable them to pay more in the poorer schools so we don’t have what we have now, where the teachers come here, the new teachers go to the poorest schools, and if they’re any good in a couple years they go to Summerlin. We want the best teachers in the county to go to the worst schools and help those students.

VLM: Are teachers the whipping boys for the Republican party now?

TS: They certainly are, and we have saddled them so much with the testing and all these things. My mother’s a teacher, and when I grew up the best person in the world was the teacher. But they could go and teach. And they were an example. It wasn’t so much what they taught you, it was just seeing them, hearing them, experiencing them and learning from them. Now there’s so much testing and everything else that a teacher really has no time to do it, so the best and the brightest are leaving the field.

I mean the reality is my kids went to public school here, I went to public school here, we have a great public school system. It’s not perfect in every school but the fact is lots of kids get a tremendous education here in Las Vegas and lots of the teachers are fantastic.

VLM: Teachers have as much ability to change the course of Nevada’s futures as any other industry don’t they?

TS: By far — everybody keeps talking about how we need to diversify the economy. Well, we’re never going to diversify until the public school system is up to the point where a company in California says I’m gonna bring my family over to Las Vegas and let them go to the public school.

VLM: Back to the marijuana industry, are the dispensary owners finally starting to make money on this?

TS: They are on a daily basis. Of course, they have so much debt accumulated over the past couple of years, but I was told that July numbers were good, August numbers were better than July and September numbers were better than August. Right now, it’s on an upward trajectory, and there is money to be made. But they were hanging on by their fingernails. If the governor had not started this industry six months early, a lot of people would have gone out of business.

VLM: Is the inventory issue becoming strained?

TS: Looking at other states when they became legal, the product takes three months to grow. As demand increases, there’s not much grow space out there initially, but the market works itself out. We are the best free market in the country. Any grower can sell to any dispensary, anywhere in the state. There will be more grown and we will catch up.

VLM: (Segerbloom has announced he is running for the District E seat on the Clark County Commission 2018, which has heavily Democratic registration.) Is this the dream job you’re going for and a chance to shine as a Democrat?

TS: Even though I disagree with term limits, I’ve been the beneficiary of term limits. All those longtime Democrats had to leave and I was ready to step in. When you’re in the Assembly it takes 22 votes to make a decision. In the Senate it takes 11. On the County Commission you want four. So all I have to do is find three people who agree with me, and off we go.

As you know, it probably is the second most powerful job in the state, we control a lot of things. Not to denigrate anything that’s happened, but I think there’s probably lots of issues and policies that we can continue to promote, bring to the forefront and really set an agenda. That’s what I hope to do, is to start talking about where we’re going as a valley, where we’re going as a county, where we’re going as a state. Not just deal with everyday management, but trying to take a long view, how we fit in with the Southwest, global warming, all that stuff. There’s a lot we control.

VLM: Some would say the County Commission as a whole is more powerful than the governor. Do you agree?

TS: Well I wouldn’t say more powerful than the governor but I do think they play a major role. But, again it takes four to make a decision, not just one person, and there’s politics, so we have to listen to the entire County Commission. We can’t just say, oh we’re going to do this, whatever. We don’t control the taxing policy, that’s one variable where the governor has a lot more say.

We have the two-thirds requirement to pass the tax in Carson City, but the Legislature can pass by majority vote, if the governor signs authorization to raise the tax, the Commission can pass a tax by majority vote. So, the reality is that if we can convince the Democrats to give us the authority to raise the sales tax, we can raise that tax here, make sure it just goes to Clark County to whatever we want to do.

One of our biggest problems in Nevada has always been the tail wags the dog. We have all the people here in Clark County, but there’s always that little group of cow counties out there that will stop us from getting the two-thirds to do anything. So our hands have been tied and it’s crazy.

For example with marijuana, Douglas County won’t even allow marijuana sales in Douglas County, yet we are giving them part of our marijuana tax for their schools — I mean how stupid is that?

VLM: On the issue of marijuana smoking lounges, it seems like we’re leaving a lot of money on the table if we don’t solve it while there’s still novelty to it. Do you see changes coming?

TS: That’s what I’ve been trying to tell people. We are sitting on a gold mine, but we can’t sit here forever. If we have lounges today, the world would be right here — the footage, the press loves this issue, they would be here. Immediately it would go around the world — Las Vegas is the place.

But every day we wait, Denver or some other place is going to take it up. Then California goes legal in January. This is a gold mine and a golden opportunity, but it’s just so frustrating for me to see people say, well, we don’t know what to do. I mean, if you’re worried about people driving, say you have to show up in a bus. We can have a pot lounge where you have some kind of a shuttle bus from the Strip and it goes around, brings you there and takes you back. It’s just a solvable problem. Let’s move it. Let’s not sit on our butts and say we’re scared of it. We’re selling $700 million worth of pot, where do you think they’re using it?

VLM: What are your big three? What are the three big things you want to do on the County Commission?

TS: Number one, I want to start looking at quality of life and there’s a way to, maybe not control growth, but to see if we can figure out where we’re going; we only have a limited amount of water, so instead of just growing until we stop let’s just see if we can plan out how we grow and how we want to be, trying to push the growth back toward the inner city, so we don’t keep extending things out.

 

Secondly, I want to just work on the marijuana industry because I feel that’s my baby and I think it’s a great source of revenue, a great source of jobs. I think there’s lots to be gained from Nevada becoming the first state where we have little Amsterdams, we have pot lounges, we have concerts. I mean we don’t want to go crazy, but the reality is it’s out there so let’s make ourselves like we used to be with gambling — you know, everybody came to Las Vegas, we were the gold standard. Let’s do that for marijuana, too. We are so perfect for it. So I want to do that.

And third, I want to see if we can use the County Commission to help the school system. There’s no reason why I can’t use my resources to help the schools of my district do a better job, whatever that takes. And I’m not sure what that would be even, maybe help them with the grounds so we can use them as parks when the schools aren’t in session, help the teachers, whatever it’s going to be, I just don’t know. But one of my proposals is going to be to have the school districts and the County Commission districts be the same districts, because there are both seven of them. That way we could really work together, see if there’s synergy, and maybe the commission should just appoint the school board members.

Final thoughts?

As a native Nevadan I’m just excited to be here. We are a town that constantly reinvents itself. To me, marijuana is going to be part of that next invention, but whatever it is I want to be there and help push it along.

Mark Fierro began his career as a reporter/anchor at KLAS-TV, the CBS television station in Las Vegas. He worked at the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. He served as communications consultant on IPO road shows on Wall Street. He provided litigation support for the Michael Jackson death trial. He is president of Fierro Communications, Inc., and author of several books including “Road Rage: The Senseless Murder of Tammy Meyers.” He has made numerous appearances on national TV news programs.

Richard S. “Tick” Segerblom is a native-born Southern Nevadan whose family is well-known to longtime Las Vegans. A fourth-generation Nevada elected official, Segerblom’s family began in Nevada politics in 1906. Tick’s mother Gene Segerblom was a lifelong school teacher in Boulder City, which ensured that virtually every Boulder City child raised during that era had contact with the Segerblom family. Gene Segerblom went on to serve on the Boulder City Council as well as in the Nevada State Assembly.

Tick Segerblom began his political career as an assemblyman and is currently a state senator best known for serving as the point person for passing the recreational marijuana law in Nevada. Next, he intends to run for a vacant Clark County Commission seat.

Vegas Legal Magazine interviewed Segerblom in his Downtown Las Vegas law office.

Vegas Legal Magazine: Describe, if you would, the Las Vegas that you grew up in — it was a completely different place.

Tick Segerblom: It was a very small town, although really even today in certain circles it’s the same handful of people, so it’s still a small town in essence. We would cruise Fremont Street on Friday nights. That’s who we were. To show you how things have changed, I was on juvenile probation for stealing an empty beer keg and throwing firecrackers!

VLM: One of the reasons I moved here when I was a kid was that you could ride a motorcycle at age 14.

 TS: I had a paper route, I had a Honda motorcycle when I was 14. That was the world back then, the Eisenhower see no evil, hear no evil philosophy. But the reality is, when you look back on it, it was so isolated and insulated. We’ve come so far since then, which is fantastic.

VLM: Freedom was a big part of it back then. If you weren’t messing with anybody, you hadn’t done anything wrong. That was just part of the mindset.

TS: I remember some people thought you were a pariah if you were from Nevada. You had relatives around the country who saw you buy something with a silver dollar. You’d have a silver dollar, and they’d [ask], “What’s that?” They’d never seen a silver dollar before. We were Sin City. To them we were an evil place where we had gambling and prostitution. We took a kind of pride in being from Nevada, in being ourselves. It was just who we were. Another thing, it was a racist town at the time, the Mississippi of the West. There were segregated schools, you would never think of marrying someone or dating someone of a different race.

VLM: Tell us about your family background because a lot of people don’t know that your family background has some interesting players.

TS: Well actually on my mother’s side they’re from Northern Nevada, and on her father’s side they were from Ruby Valley, which is where the Pony Express riders and drivers were back in the 1860s. On her mother’s side they were from Winnemucca. My mother’s grandfather had a gold mine and he owned the house of prostitution — it’s not like he ran it but he owned the house where it was. He was a big deal, he was a state senator from Winnemucca and actually voted against women’s right to vote — and when it passed he couldn’t go back to Winnemeucca. He went to San Francisco instead. To show how things come full circle, his daughter, my grandmother, went to the state Legislature and then my mother of course goes to the state Legislature.

 VLM: And she was a firebrand.

TS: She was a firebrand. What I learned from her is I think it’s easier just to be open, be who you are, no games. Especially from rural Nevada, it was “you are who you say you are,” the cowboy philosophy.

VLM: How long did she serve?

TS: Just eight years. She was on the City Council in Boulder City before that, she was the government teacher in Boulder City for 20 years. I had her for two classes. Everybody in Boulder City, you had to take her class to graduate. That’s the reason she was elected to the Legislature — it’s a Republican district but she taught everybody, everybody knew her. She built a tremendous amount of respect from being the government teacher.

VLM: What’s your history in politics?

 TS: I was just always raised to believe politics was an honorable thing to do, but I really became revolutionized during the Vietnam War when I was in college. Everyone was being drafted and there was just lots of stuff — my sophomore year when I’m in L.A., Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. I dropped out of school and later on in my senior year is when Reagan tear gassed the Berkeley kids — just all those things where you get kind of, I wouldn’t say radicalized, but you learn how to hate “the man.” I think over time most people of my generation have kind of just given in, but I kind of like to poke a finger in the man’s eye every now and then.

But the fun part is to see what we thought in the ’60s, with marijuana for example, we thought within a few years it would be legal. We thought we were going in that direction, but then after Carter left for Reagan, it turned all the way around and then just kept getting worse and worse and worse — and then to see it finally come full circle, and now we’re back to where we were literally in the late ’60s. I mean can you believe that you can actually buy marijuana — you can’t smoke on the street, yeah, but you can carry around an ounce and the cops can’t do anything.

VLM: Did Nevada do it the right way?

TS: The way they made it legal, they started with medical. I never knew it had medical properties — to us it was just for listening to music. The medical was something that came out more is recent years.

I would prefer the federal government not make it legal, because the longer it’s illegal, the more we can create our own industry and create this vibrant economy around it, which really is exciting. I mean, I’ve been around the politics field for a few years and the most fun is the marijuana people because they’re still optimistic. You go to parties, you go to their fundraisers, and they are just a very energized group of people. (Probably because they’re all felons!)

VLM: In the old days we were always the first mover, the first mover in gaming, the first mover in hands-off prostitution …  But here we didn’t act on marijuana until after other states such as Colorado, Oregon and Washington. Was that a smart path?

TS: I think so. When we finally came around to it, we had an example to use.

I think the way it happened was, when I was growing up, you know, the Mormons were a player, but they weren’t running the show, and somehow or other they really became a power, maybe in the ’80s or ’90s. And they were kind of dictating social mores, and so marijuana was pretty much off the table, even though I think most people here, as we’ve discovered, didn’t have any problem with it.

But when you go to the Legislature trying to pass a marijuana bill, we couldn’t even get a hearing. The leadership would say, oh, no one wants that. Even though the public mood was there.

When I passed my first (marijuana) bill in 2013 my co-sponsor was Mark Hutchison, a big shot in the Mormon Church, and his whole thing was, “it’s in the Constitution and I am a constitutional lawyer, we have to give people a right to obey the Constitution.” So, he just saw it from a constitutional perspective. I think he also probably saw that there was a good business opportunity there, which there is. Since that time I think some of that group has kind of gone further to the right and said we don’t want to get involved directly, but there’s still a lot of Mormons involved in the (marijuana) business.

VLM: Was that frustrating seeing the people of Nevada putting their voices out there in support of marijuana, and at first nobody in politics did anything?

TS: I saw it from a distance because I wasn’t in politics when the first vote for medical marijuana happened. Then I got to the Legislature and started seeing people trying to bring up bills but not get a hearing — it was kind of like, what’s up with this? Because medical was put in the Constitution by 67 percent of the vote, it was a no-brainer.

But that’s been my experience all along — the politicians are so far behind the curve as far as the public goes. The voters are there. They’ve already accepted it and they’re ready to move on, tax it, test it, and if people want to use it that’s fine. People know that it’s not the devil weed, it doesn’t make you crazy. Compared to other drugs it’s much more benign.

VLM: When your bill starts to gain traction, do you have time to ask, “Are we ready for this? Is it going to really happen?”

TS: I kept thinking that it’s not going to happen. We got to the Senate fairly easily because of Hutchison but then it got to the Assembly, then the Republicans started to say, oh my God, what are we doing here? It was a two-thirds bill, you know, you never get two-thirds on anything. So, we need one Republican, and the Republican caucus made it a litmus test — if you’re Republican, you have to vote against it.

And then Michele Fiore, as crazy as she is, stepped up and voted for it. Then of course the governor had to sign it. I thought there’s no way in hell, but he did. It was one of those things where the stars were in alignment. The truth was there really was no organized opposition.

VLM: Are there are there any inside stories to tell about the governor’s handling of it?

TS: If there are I don’t know them. The truth is, there are still a lot of big-time Nevada families who saw this as a business opportunity and so they were in there pushing him to do it. The governor said, I want to come out and implement it six months early. How great is that?

VLM: Are we are ahead of California in some ways?

TS: Both of our laws passed last November, and were supposed to kick in the 1st of 2018. Ours kicked in six months early.

In California, they’re trying to take an unregulated Wild West market and put in some kind of regulation. It’s gonna be almost impossible in the short term.

VLM: Isn’t it everywhere in Southern California, which dilutes the chances for maximum tax revenues?

TS: Yeah, there’s no statewide tax even on it, there’s no testing requirements. There’s no seed-to-sale requirements. They got the people up north growing outside by the ton, and they wanted it to stay illegal. When someone applies for a license, what do you do? They show up and you say, OK give us your tax returns for the last five years. Well, these guys, these growers, have never paid taxes. You may be the best grower or the best whatever, but they have no history about working within the system. So what do you do when the guy says, well I’ve been growing for the past five or 10 years, but I don’t have any tax records? Can you say, oh well go ahead and stamp that person, that’s OK? I have talked to accountants and they’re trying to reconstruct these past several years so these growers in California can even apply.

VLM: In Nevada, the governor asked for a genuine revenue projection — when you wave $70 million around, you get people’s attention, and he said we can move forward. Thoughts?

TS: That was the price he had for the ESAs (education savings accounts), the voucher program. I think he was thinking, well, I’ll use the $70 million from the voucher program and that will be the justification for it. But the Democrats killed the voucher program.

But the $70 million, that’s just the 10 percent tax he added. And during the State of the State he said, I’m going to propose a 10 percent tax. I was like, wow, I can’t believe it. That’s $700 million in sales over two years. That’s a shitload of money, starting from scratch essentially.

But still, it was a two-thirds tax and the Republicans were going to hold it hostage until the very end. They caved because they wanted the money. Tying the ESAs to the marijuana tax was going to be their hill to die on.

VLM: So ESAs, for Democrats they were not going down that road …

 TS: The reality is, for Republicans, it’s more about trying to gut the teachers’ union, because they don’t care about education. If you can give somebody $5,000 to go to Gorman who’s already going to Gorman, then what’s the point of it? So it really was a litmus test for us.

I didn’t realize this until this debate came up, but we already pay $700 million for charter schools. That’s an incredible amount of money in Nevada for these little schools which have very little regulation …

The key to a democracy is public education, and we have to be committed to that. I’m actually going to propose a 1-cent sales tax in Clark County just to go to teacher salaries, and to use it for teachers and also to enable them to pay more in the poorer schools so we don’t have what we have now, where the teachers come here, the new teachers go to the poorest schools, and if they’re any good in a couple years they go to Summerlin. We want the best teachers in the county to go to the worst schools and help those students.

VLM: Are teachers the whipping boys for the Republican party now?

TS: They certainly are, and we have saddled them so much with the testing and all these things. My mother’s a teacher, and when I grew up the best person in the world was the teacher. But they could go and teach. And they were an example. It wasn’t so much what they taught you, it was just seeing them, hearing them, experiencing them and learning from them. Now there’s so much testing and everything else that a teacher really has no time to do it, so the best and the brightest are leaving the field.

I mean the reality is my kids went to public school here, I went to public school here, we have a great public school system. It’s not perfect in every school but the fact is lots of kids get a tremendous education here in Las Vegas and lots of the teachers are fantastic.

VLM: Teachers have as much ability to change the course of Nevada’s futures as any other industry don’t they?

TS: By far — everybody keeps talking about how we need to diversify the economy. Well, we’re never going to diversify until the public school system is up to the point where a company in California says I’m gonna bring my family over to Las Vegas and let them go to the public school.

VLM: Back to the marijuana industry, are the dispensary owners finally starting to make money on this?

TS: They are on a daily basis. Of course, they have so much debt accumulated over the past couple of years, but I was told that July numbers were good, August numbers were better than July and September numbers were better than August. Right now, it’s on an upward trajectory, and there is money to be made. But they were hanging on by their fingernails. If the governor had not started this industry six months early, a lot of people would have gone out of business.

VLM: Is the inventory issue becoming strained?

TS: Looking at other states when they became legal, the product takes three months to grow. As demand increases, there’s not much grow space out there initially, but the market works itself out. We are the best free market in the country. Any grower can sell to any dispensary, anywhere in the state. There will be more grown and we will catch up.

VLM: (Segerbloom has announced he is running for the District E seat on the Clark County Commission 2018, which has heavily Democratic registration.) Is this the dream job you’re going for and a chance to shine as a Democrat?

TS: Even though I disagree with term limits, I’ve been the beneficiary of term limits. All those longtime Democrats had to leave and I was ready to step in. When you’re in the Assembly it takes 22 votes to make a decision. In the Senate it takes 11. On the County Commission you want four. So all I have to do is find three people who agree with me, and off we go.

As you know, it probably is the second most powerful job in the state, we control a lot of things. Not to denigrate anything that’s happened, but I think there’s probably lots of issues and policies that we can continue to promote, bring to the forefront and really set an agenda. That’s what I hope to do, is to start talking about where we’re going as a valley, where we’re going as a county, where we’re going as a state. Not just deal with everyday management, but trying to take a long view, how we fit in with the Southwest, global warming, all that stuff. There’s a lot we control.

VLM: Some would say the County Commission as a whole is more powerful than the governor. Do you agree?

TS: Well I wouldn’t say more powerful than the governor but I do think they play a major role. But, again it takes four to make a decision, not just one person, and there’s politics, so we have to listen to the entire County Commission. We can’t just say, oh we’re going to do this, whatever. We don’t control the taxing policy, that’s one variable where the governor has a lot more say.

We have the two-thirds requirement to pass the tax in Carson City, but the Legislature can pass by majority vote, if the governor signs authorization to raise the tax, the Commission can pass a tax by majority vote. So, the reality is that if we can convince the Democrats to give us the authority to raise the sales tax, we can raise that tax here, make sure it just goes to Clark County to whatever we want to do.

One of our biggest problems in Nevada has always been the tail wags the dog. We have all the people here in Clark County, but there’s always that little group of cow counties out there that will stop us from getting the two-thirds to do anything. So our hands have been tied and it’s crazy.

For example with marijuana, Douglas County won’t even allow marijuana sales in Douglas County, yet we are giving them part of our marijuana tax for their schools — I mean how stupid is that?

VLM: On the issue of marijuana smoking lounges, it seems like we’re leaving a lot of money on the table if we don’t solve it while there’s still novelty to it. Do you see changes coming?

TS: That’s what I’ve been trying to tell people. We are sitting on a gold mine, but we can’t sit here forever. If we have lounges today, the world would be right here — the footage, the press loves this issue, they would be here. Immediately it would go around the world — Las Vegas is the place.

But every day we wait, Denver or some other place is going to take it up. Then California goes legal in January. This is a gold mine and a golden opportunity, but it’s just so frustrating for me to see people say, well, we don’t know what to do. I mean, if you’re worried about people driving, say you have to show up in a bus. We can have a pot lounge where you have some kind of a shuttle bus from the Strip and it goes around, brings you there and takes you back. It’s just a solvable problem. Let’s move it. Let’s not sit on our butts and say we’re scared of it. We’re selling $700 million worth of pot, where do you think they’re using it?

VLM: What are your big three? What are the three big things you want to do on the County Commission?

TS: Number one, I want to start looking at quality of life and there’s a way to, maybe not control growth, but to see if we can figure out where we’re going; we only have a limited amount of water, so instead of just growing until we stop let’s just see if we can plan out how we grow and how we want to be, trying to push the growth back toward the inner city, so we don’t keep extending things out.

Secondly, I want to just work on the marijuana industry because I feel that’s my baby and I think it’s a great source of revenue, a great source of jobs. I think there’s lots to be gained from Nevada becoming the first state where we have little Amsterdams, we have pot lounges, we have concerts. I mean we don’t want to go crazy, but the reality is it’s out there so let’s make ourselves like we used to be with gambling — you know, everybody came to Las Vegas, we were the gold standard. Let’s do that for marijuana, too. We are so perfect for it. So I want to do that.

And third, I want to see if we can use the County Commission to help the school system. There’s no reason why I can’t use my resources to help the schools of my district do a better job, whatever that takes. And I’m not sure what that would be even, maybe help them with the grounds so we can use them as parks when the schools aren’t in session, help the teachers, whatever it’s going to be, I just don’t know. But one of my proposals is going to be to have the school districts and the County Commission districts be the same districts, because there are both seven of them. That way we could really work together, see if there’s synergy, and maybe the commission should just appoint the school board members.

Final thoughts?

As a native Nevadan I’m just excited to be here. We are a town that constantly reinvents itself. To me, marijuana is going to be part of that next invention, but whatever it is I want to be there and help push it along.


Mark Fierro began his career as a reporter/anchor at KLAS-TV, the CBS television station in Las Vegas. He worked at the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C. He served as communications consultant on IPO road shows on Wall Street. He provided litigation support for the Michael Jackson death trial. He is president of Fierro Communications, Inc., and author of several books including “Road Rage: The Senseless Murder of Tammy Meyers.” He has made numerous appearances on national TV news programs.

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