Pubdate: Thu, 13 Sep 2018 Source: Blade, The (Toledo, OH) Copyright: 2018 The Blade Contact: http://www.toledoblade.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/48 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 wrote. 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 efforts." 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.