Auditor: Ohio regulators were ‘sloppy’ with review of medical marijuana grow applications

September 13, 2018

Auditor: Ohio regulators were ‘sloppy’ with review of medical marijuana grow applications

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio regulators made several data entry errors, failed to redact identifying information from applications and applied inconsistent standards while scoring 185 applications to grow medical marijuana, according to a blistering report from the state auditor’s office released Thursday.

Auditor Dave Yost’s office began examining the scoring process after reports late last year that the department unknowingly hired a scoring consultant with a felony marijuana conviction. During the course of the review, auditors identified a security weakness that could have allowed scores or application materials to be changed by a department employee.

The report released Thursday identified several other issues including:

Yost’s office found several instances where names and other personally identifying information were not redacted from the second part of the application.Applicants were required to show local zoning approval, and this was reviewed inconsistently by scorers.The agency did not keep a log of when and why it contacted applicants for additional information after applications were initially submitted.

“The department didn’t do a very good job launching this program,” Yost said in a news release. “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.”

In a response included in the audit report, Commerce Director Jacqueline Williams said the agency has acknowledged there was room for improvement in the scoring process and has taken steps to ensure mistakes aren’t made in later rounds of application scoring. Williams also disagreed with Yost’s assertion that the agency does not have the authority to issue additional grow licenses to remedy mistakes.

Ohio awarded 24 cultivation licenses in November 2017. Several lawsuits and dozens of administrative appeals were filed challenging the process.

The program missed its self-imposed Sept. 8 deadline to be “fully operational.”

This story will be updated.

Mobile readers, click here to open the audit in a new window.

Department of Commerce MMJ Cultivator Report Franklin (PDF) Department of Commerce MMJ Cultivator Report Franklin (Text)

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