“Talk of further delays in the implementation of Ohio's Medical Marijuana Control Program will only prolong patient suffering,''
The Ohio Department of Commerce is willing to hit the pause button on the review process for medical marijuana licenses, which has come under scrutiny from state regulators.
Ohio Auditor Dave Yost recently raised concerns about what he described as a “critical flaw” in the review of medical marijuana grower applications that would have allowed application graders’ computer accounts to be hacked.
Yost said outsiders could have signed on to the state-sponsored system for grading applications and manipulated the scores that were used late last year to grant 24 licenses for large and small marijuana growers in Ohio.
In a letter to Yost’s office, the commerce department acknowledged the problem and identified at least one error in the review process after responding to a request for documents from the auditor’s office.
“Please be aware that while taking steps to respond to document requests from your audit staff, the Department on February 12, 2018 identified inadvertent data input errors in the financial data plan scoring of the cultivator applications,” according to the letter obtained by the Enquirer.
Ten of the large grower license applications were affected by the scoring error, according to the commerce department, which said it’s pursuing a legal means to award one additional license to PharmaCann Ohio, based in suburban Columbus.
PharmaCann would have been the eighth highest-scoring applicant among the large growers if the scores were calculated correctly, the commerce department said.
Given such concerns, the commerce department offered Yost to “pause any porting of the MMCP’s process that you deem necessary,” reads the letter from commerce director Jacqueline Williams.
The commerce department is currently reviewing license applications for up to 40 medical weed processors and an undetermined number for testing laboratories.
Applications for retail dispensaries are under review by the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy.
Yost was unavailable for comment this morning.
But the auditor’s office acknowledged in an email that it had received the letter from the commerce department and was “formulating a response.”
If Yost accepts the commerce department’s offer to pause the review process, it would put added pressure on the commerce department to complete the licensing process before the state’s Medical Marijuana Control Program is required by law to become fully operational on Sept. 8.
“Talk of further delays in the implementation of Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program will only prolong patient suffering,” according to a statement from Thomas Rosenberger, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association of Ohio.
Previously, the commerce department said it was confident in the review process and would not alter or stop the process after coming under fire from Yost and other state officials for failing to disclose a prior drug conviction for one of the cultivation application reviewers.
The drug conviction was uncovered by CannAscend Ohio – a Cincinnati-based investment group that was among 97 applicants in Ohio denied a provisional license for large medial marijuana growers.
After reviewing records associated with the application process, CannAscend lawyers found that one of the application graders, Trevor C. Bozeman, pled guilty in 2005 to possession with intent to manufacture or distribute a controlled substance in Pennsylvania and was sentenced to three years of probation.
CannAscend CEO Jimmy Gould has said he believes the undisclosed drug conviction was just one of a number of significant irregularities in the growers’ application review process, and he’s planning to file a lawsuit against the state next week in Franklin County Common Pleas Court.
“CannAscend has long maintained the Cultivation Application Process had critically fatal flaws. Director William’s letter to Auditor Yost confirms that she and the Department have begun to acknowledge some, but not all of the problems. Sadly, this realization did not occur until there was smoke billowing out of the Department of Commerce, from the fire that is consuming Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program,” Gould’s business partner, Ian James, said in an email. “The fact that Director Williams is now seeking a path to recovery, asking for help and willing to pause the program will have no bearing on CannAscend’s lawsuit.”
By Randy Tucker – Cincinnati.com
Photo Credit – Times Herald/Jeffrey M. Smith