Pubdate: Thu, 13 Sep 2018
Source: Blade, The (Toledo, OH)
Copyright: 2018 The Blade
Author: Jim Provance

COLUMBUS - An audit on Thursday suggested the state overstepped its
legal authority under Ohio's medical marijuana law when it awarded two
additional cultivator licenses to compensate for errors that wrongly
denied licenses to qualified applicants.

Auditor Dave Yost characterized the Department of Commerce's roll-out
of its share of the fledgling program as "sloppy" with dozens of
errors and inconsistencies. The program was supposed to be fully
operational Sept. 8, but the state is months behind in having legal
product on the shelves for purchase.

"The department didn't do a very good job launching this program," Mr.
Yost said. "It did not exercise due diligence to make sure Ohioans
could have complete confidence in the process. The department's work
was sloppy. Ohioans deserved better."

The department's own administrative rules limited the number of
licenses for cannabis growers to 24 - 12 each for large and
small-scale operations. But it ultimately awarded 13 in each category
after it was discovered that evaluations of applicants had been
improperly scored, wrongfully denying licenses.

Mr. Yost said the department should have completed a more thorough
review of the process before awarding any licenses and added the
errors were not disclosed until the auditor's office began asking questions.

In the department's response, Director Jacqueline Williams said she
would "respectfully disagree" with the auditor's contention that it
acted outside administrative law in awarding the additional licenses.

She contends a Franklin County Common Pleas Court judge determined the
department had acted legally while Mr. Yost contends that ruling was
not binding. Ms. Williams said an internal review of the process had
already identified some of the same needs for improvement in the process.

"At the current time, we have four cultivators who have been issued
their Certificates of Operation (with a number of additional licensees
scheduled for their compliance inspections in the coming days), and we
have provisional licenses issued for testing labs and processors," she

She also pointed to the roles played by the state pharmacy and medical
boards in rolling out their shares of the program.

"Ohio's medical marijuana industry is taking shape," Ms. Williams
wrote. "The Medical Marijuana Control Program will continue its work
to ensure that Ohio patients have access to safe, reliable, stable
sources of medical marijuana, and I appreciate your support of these

Ohio passed its law in 2016 and gave the state two years, a deadline
that passed on Saturday, to build the necessary regulatory, licensing,
tracking, testing, and retail infrastructure.

Cultivators have begun growing marijuana, but it could be close to the
end of the year before finished oils, tinctures, patches, edibles, and
other forms that may be legally used in Ohio could be available for
sale. The pharmacy board has held off accepting applications for
registration cards for those with any of 21 qualifying medical
conditions under the law until product is available.

Ohio's law prohibits smoking and home-growing of marijuana.