To gain access to information on who has business licenses to grow, transport, and sell medical marijuana across the state, Missouri House voted last Tuesday to require state regulators to submit records to legislative oversight committees.
And as the legislative term ended just weeks before the legislature’s summer recess began, the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) reacted quickly on Thursday with a possible veto by the governor.
One of the bill’s sponsors, Rep. Peter Meredith (D-St. Louis) believes that the DHSS’s confidentiality of property records has made it difficult to monitor the medical marijuana program. In particular, he points to an investigation by The Independent and The Missourian which found an organization to be associated with more than five pharmacy licenses. According to the state constitution, no company is prohibited from jointly controlling, owning or administering more than five pharmacy licenses.
Another lawmaker sponsoring the bill, Senator Eric Burlison (R-Battlefield), agrees with Meredith, stating that changing medical marijuana is a “great idea”. I think it’s great “.
Nonetheless, he, along with members of the conference committee, concluded that the DHSS objection could bury the entire bill, as the provision is added as an amendment to an already existing bill for nonprofits.
“The department came to me,” said Burlison, “and said they thought it was unconstitutional.”
The medical marijuana constitutional amendment approved by Missouri voters in 2018 justifies the DHSS to retain information from public disclosure. Part of the amendment states that the department must “maintain the confidentiality of reports or other information received from an applicant or licensee that contain individualized data, information or records relating to the licensee or its operations” .
Veto threat convinces lawmakers to drop new medical marijuana regulation amendment
As veto law often does, the challenge posed by DHSS has proven sufficient to sway Missouri legislation and drop the amendment to enforce pharmacy ownership disclosure. Several lawmakers have voiced their continuing concerns. Rep. Meredith stated that the division’s decision was inaccurate and concluded that the change would only provide information to the Legislative Oversight Committee and not to the general public.
The chairman of the Special Committee on Government Oversight, Rep. Jered Taylor (R-Christian County), expressed like-minded sentiments, stating that the change was important to ensure that state regulators “follow the Constitution, that they do what you do”. shall do it. “
This is not the first time Missouri’s medical marijuana program, run through the DHSS, has faced investigations since its inception in 2018. A House committee spent months examining records to obtain reports of inconsistencies in the evaluation of license applications for a conflict of interest between a private company tasked with evaluating applications and the DHSS.
The DHSS received a grand jury subpoena from the U.S. District Court for the Western District in November 2019. The subpoena required the department to provide documents relating to four medical marijuana license applications.
Governor Parson has also been scrutinized for his fundraising campaigns with medical marijuana business owners across Missouri to raise funds for Uniting Missouri, its political action committee. The PAC reportedly raised more than $ 45,000 in large donations from the fundraiser.
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