COLUMBUS — Calls for a new review of applications to grow the product to feed Ohio’s new medical-marijuana industry are increasing on both sides of the aisle after the revelation that one of the consultants hired to help score them had a drug conviction.
So far, there are no plans to redo the application evaluations, but Rep. Kirk Schuring (R., Canton), who played a major role in passage of the law legalizing medical marijuana, said he’s worried the controversies and potential litigation could endanger the Sept. 8 statutory deadline for the program to fully operational.
“I’m going to look into what actually happened,” he said. “I hope to have a conversation with the Department of Commerce soon. The reason I’m concerned is the cultivator license is the first line in the supply chain. If we have issues regarding the grow sites, then all the licenses downstream will be affected.”
State Auditor Dave Yost, Lt. Gov. Mary Taylor, Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, and state Rep. Larry Householder (R., Glenford) have all called for the department to reevaluate the applications days after provisional approval was given for 12 large-scale facilities.
“The sheer inequity and double standard here should be lost on no one,” said Ms. Whaley, a Democratic candidate for governor. “A Department of Commerce contractor with a felony was able to get off on probation and later secure a $150,000 government contract.”
Mr. Yost, a Republican running for attorney general next year, has directed his auditor’s office staff to look into potential errors in the process.
“This is an epic failure,” he said. “I am outraged. The only proper course of action is to freeze the process and independently review the evaluation and scoring from the ground up.”
Ms. Taylor, a Republican candidate for governor, is a part of the Kasich administration that she is now criticizing.
“As a mother who has struggled with addiction in my own family, I am outraged that a convicted drug dealer played a major role in determining who was suitable to receive a license,” she said. “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.”
Mr. Householder, who wants to be the Ohio House of Representatives’ next speaker, also said the process should be halted in its tracks “until Ohioans can be assured this process has not been tainted.”
The problem was brought to light by representatives of CannAscend Ohio, a Cincinnati company that failed to win a license in the latest round. It has vowed to challenge the process in court.
Trevor C. Bozeman’s iCann Consulting was one of the consultants hired to evaluate various portions of the applications for cultivator licenses. He has a Pennsylvania drug conviction on his record for possession with intent to manufacture or distribute.
While Commerce had approval to spend up to $150,000 on each consultant, Bozeman has been paid $6,061 to date, billed at an hourly rate, according to department spokesman Stephanie Gostomski. While invoices are still pending, she said the company’s total payment should be less than $15,000.
“The applications were scored by more than 20 reviewers,” she said. “Not one of them had more influence than any other, and the scores were determined on a consensus basis.”
Twenty-four growing facilities — 12 large facilities with up to 25,000 square feet of growing space and 12 smaller operations with up to 3,000 square feet — would grow the varieties of cannabis on the front end of the supply chain.
Commerce announced preliminary approval of licenses for the larger facilities last week, including one for Standard Wellness Co. that plans an operation in Gibsonburg’s Clearview Industrial Park.
The department had previously announced license approvals for the smaller cultivators, including Ohio Grow LLC for its proposed site at 367 E. State Line Rd., Toledo.
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