A chorus of state and local officials on Wednesday called for a freeze on state-issued medical marijuana growers’ licenses after learning one of the consultants hired to grade license applications is a convicted drug dealer.
“It’s possible that this just looks horrible and there’s not a problem, but I wouldn’t put money on that,” according to State Auditor Dave Yost, who said at the very least the consultant’s criminal background calls into question the integrity of the selection process.
“It seems to me at the very least we could hit the pause button on this and evaluate whether the process is on the up-and-up,” Yost told The Enquirer. “We’re seeking information on exactly what was done and what should have been done.”
The Ohio Department of Commerce last week awarded 12 preliminary “Level 1” licenses for medical marijuana growers with up to 25,000 square feet of growing space.
Cincinnati-based CannAscend Ohio, one of the 97 applicants denied a Level 1 growers’ license, contested the results and discovered that one of the application reviewers 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.
Bozeman declined to comment when reached by phone Tuesday.
The state commerce department said each of the three consultants – paid up to $150,000 to grade applications for Level 1 licenses – met the standards set forth in the state’s request for proposals.
However, the state agency overseeing Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Control Program did not say whether those standards included state and federal background checks or whether the agency was aware of Bozeman’s criminal background.
“I am outraged that a convicted drug dealer played a major role in determining who was suitable to receive a license,” Taylor said in a statement. “At a minimum, the integrity of the process has been called into question and it is unconscionable to imagine that this process would be allowed to continue until we have a full reckoning.”
Locally, CannAscend – an investment group headed by Jimmy Gould, Bill Brisben and Ian James, who planned to build a marijuana production facility in Wilmington – is planning to file a lawsuit contesting the results and seeking to preserve all records and communications used by the state commerce department to review and score the applications.
In addition, CannAscend’s legal team is preparing an appeal to the state marijuana control program.
“Did the Department of Commerce not think it important to check and report the fact that at least one of the scorers of the Medical Marijuana Control Program, had a criminal record for dealing drugs, and potentially other brushes with the law? If not, why not?” Gould continued in his statement. “The failure to disclose this fact, when there is incredible concern over significant irregularities uncovered in the Cultivation Application process is quite concerning, and should be the subject of a government oversight investigation.”
Gould is calling for a complete do-over of the application process in light of Bozeman’s criminal background and other “flaws” in the selection process.
Said Yost: “That’s a high-probability outcome.”
Original post from Cincinnati