Missouri regulators derailed medical marijuana disclosure efforts with risk of veto

Missouri regulators say they believe property rights disclosure for medical marijuana companies under a House-approved amendment may be unconstitutional and may ask the governor to veto the legislation.

By Jason Hancock, Missouri Independent

Lawmakers’ attempt to require property information disclosure for companies licensed to sell medical marijuana derailed Thursday when state regulators suggested a possible veto by governors.

On Tuesday, Missouri House voted to require the Department of Health and Senior Services to provide records to legislative oversight committees of who owns the companies that are licensed to grow, transport, and sell medical marijuana.

The provision was added as an amendment to another bill for non-profit organizations.

His sponsor, Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. According to Louis, the DHSS’s decision to keep property records confidential has caused problems with monitoring the program. He referred to the recent analysis of the 192 state-issued pharmacy licenses by The Independent and The Missourian which identified several cases where a single unit was linked to more than five pharmacy licenses.

The state constitution prohibits the state from granting more than five pharmacy licenses to companies that are essentially subject to joint control, ownership or management.

A conference committee met on Thursday to work out differences in the underlying bill between the House and the Senate.

Senator Eric Burlison, a Republican from Battlefield and sponsor of the bill, called the medical marijuana change a “great idea.” I think it’s great. “

However, he said the department’s resistance was putting the entire bill at risk.

“The department came to me,” he said, “and said they thought it was unconstitutional.”

The DHSS justified its withholding information from disclosure by referring to part of the medical marijuana constitutional amendment passed by voters in 2018, stating that the department should “protect the confidentiality of reports or other information submitted by an applicant or licensee with individualized data and information has been received, is intended to maintain or records relating to the licensee or its operation … “

Alex Tuttle, a lobbyist for DHSS, said if the bill were passed with the medical marijuana amendment still attached, the department could recommend a veto to Governor Mike Parson.

The threat of a veto proved convincing as several members of the conference committee expressed concern over the idea of ​​the change that drowned the entire bill.

Merideth said the division’s conclusion was wrong. In addition, the amendment was tailored closely so that the information would not be made public. It would only be passed to legislative oversight committees.

Rep. Jered Taylor, R-Republic, chairman of the special committee on government oversight, said the change was essential to ensure that state regulators “follow the constitution and do what they are supposed to do”.

The medical marijuana program has been scrutinized by voters in the two years since its inception.

A House committee spent months investigating widespread reports of irregularities in the evaluation of license applications and allegations of conflicts of interest within the DHSS and a private company tasked with evaluating applications.

In November 2019, the DHSS received a grand jury subpoena issued by the U.S. District Court for the Western District. She asked the agency to hand over all of the documentation for four medical marijuana license applications.

The copy of the subpoena that was made public redacted the identities of the four applicants at the request of the FBI. Lyndall Fraker, director of medical marijuana regulation, later said during a filing that the subpoena was not addressed to the department but was linked to an FBI investigative center in Independence.

More recently, Parson has been criticized for his political action committee Uniting Missouri for a fundraiser with medical marijuana business owners.

The group reported raising $ 45,000 in large donations from the fundraiser. More than half of that money came from a PAC affiliated with Steve Tilley, a lobbyist with numerous medical marijuana clients who has been under FBI scrutiny for more than a year.

This story was first published by Missouri Independent.

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