By Marty SchladenGateHouse Media Ohio
From litigation to audits to legislation, the attempted fixes are piling up for an Ohio medical marijuana program that has been beset by problems. But the officials in charge of the program — Gov. John Kasich and Commerce Director Jacqueline Williams — have been slow to acknowledge those difficulties.
That’s left some doubting whether medical marijuana will be available in Ohio by the Sept. 8 deadline.
Not long after the Commerce Department awarded provisional licenses for large growers last year, one disappointed bidder, Cincinnati businessman Jimmy Gould, conducted background checks and discovered that a consultant in the screening process had been convicted of drug crimes. When that came to light, Williams didn’t admit any mistakes; she said her department wasn’t required to do background checks of vendors.
That response was woefully inadequate in the eyes of Ohio Auditor Dave Yost.
“That’s not acknowledging a mistake, it’s defending what you did and saying it’s all right,” he said last week.
A subsequent review by his office revealed that inadequate computer security could have allowed applications to be altered, undermining confidence in their scoring.
Gould and 19 other would-be growers are suing, claiming among other things that five companies that got provisional licenses didn’t meet threshold requirements, such as having adequate setbacks from schools and other stipulated locales. And 60 of the 109 companies that applied for 12 large-grow licenses have filed administrative appeals of their rejections, Gould’s lawyers say.
Earlier this month, after months of scrutiny and criticism, the Commerce Department itself admitted that it mishandled applications in a way that rejected a company that should have been selected. The department said it would look for a way to create an additional license for it after Sept. 8.
But for Yost and at least one state