Ohio’s Auditor says it’s probably too late for the state Department of Commerce to pause its medical marijuana processes to fix problems. He’s telling the department to focus now instead on defending lawsuits.
Back in December, just days after it was discovered that the state hired a man with a felony drug conviction to score medical marijuana applications, Auditor Dave Yost called for the process to stop.
“This is an epic fail," Yost said. "I’m outraged. And you know it really calls into question the integrity of the entire process.
"The Commerce Department needs to hit the brakes, hit the pause button and needs to arrange for an independent review of how this all happened – and whether the scoring and application process is really reliable. Is it on the up and up? Because right now, I think there are major, major question marks.”
But the state’s commerce department didn’t do that. Yost started trying to audit the medical marijuana process. And in the past couple of weeks, more questions were raised about passwords and security of the system used to do the scoring. Again, Yost called for a pause.
“I would renew that call. It makes more sense than ever to be sure that we do it right,” Yost said.
Correcting One Problem And Revealing More
Since that time, Agency Director Jacqueline Williams sent a letter to Yost saying the department had corrected the password problem. But that letter also revealed a new issue.
She said it was discovered that one of the companies that should have received a license was denied because of scoring errors. Yost says it’s not as simple as just allowing more licenses to be issued.
“The problem is how do you decide who gets additional licenses, just as a starting question," Yost said. "Right now, I don’t have any confidence in the scoring system and that process as it happened. So that may change as we continue our work but I think the whole thing is rather murky right now.”
In the days that have followed, additional lawsuits have been filed by companies that say they were incorrectly denied licenses. But Yost says stopping the process for a review is too little, too late right now.
“If they had just done their due diligence and checked their work before they issued the licenses, we wouldn’t be here," Yost said. "But this entire process has been shoddy and poorly managed.”
Yost says he’ll continue to try to audit the process. But in the meantime, he’s advising the Commerce Department to seek the advice of the attorney general, who must defend the program and the agency’s actions in court.
Yost says it is important for the state to have its medical marijuana program operating by the September deadline because too many patients have been waiting for it.