Lawsuit: Ohio Dept. of Commerce mishandled marijuana grow licences

PHOTO: Recreational Marijuana, Photo Date: 5/27/2016 (Pixabay/MGN)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - A lawsuit filed on Tuesday challenges how the state of Ohio handed out a dozen licenses to grow medical marijuana.

In December, Cresco Labs celebrated after being picked as one of just 12 businesses awarded a large license to grow marijuana in Ohio. The groundbreaking for a new 25,000 square foot facility near Dayton came just days after the announcement.

But, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Franklin County Court, those who weren't picked for the large grow licenses claim Ohio’s Department of Commerce dug itself a huge hole by mishandling the process.

"I never dreamed that this entire program would be hijacked,” said Jimmy Gould, who helped pave the way for legalizing marijuana in Ohio.

Gould’s company Cannascend did not get a license. They are leading the lawsuit against the Ohio Department of Commerce, the graders and all the businesses that did get a license because of a promise that Gould says the state did not keep.

GOULD: “Everybody would be treated the same.”
DUANE: “And that didn't happen?”
GOULD: ”Absolutely not.”
DUANE: “Did it cross into illegality?”
GOULD: “I think it certainly may have.”

Gould is not alone. Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said months ago that there should be a thorough independent investigation.

“There are allegations out there that lend one to believe that there might be criminal activity,” said DeWine.

Tuesday’s lawsuit claims the Department of Commerce failed to uncover:

  • Blatant conflicts of interest
  • Scoring defects
  • Violations of Ohio law

“At least five of the twelve licenses were awarded to entities that should have been disqualified,” said the lawsuit.

Gould even claims the numbers that were used to score the applications simply don't add up.

"We found 14 applications have not been added or subtracted properly… The math is wrong,” said Gould.

Gould also says lots of other things about this don't add up either.

Ohio's Department of Commerce has long stood by its marijuana licensing process, but has recently said it's open to re-examining the program.

After the lawsuit was filed, Local 12’s Duane Pohlman did reach out to commerce on Tuesday afternoon. A spokesperson told him that the state does not respond to pending litigation.

The lawsuit also names as defendants as the examiners the state hired as well as the 12 businesses who got a license.

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