A Missouri appeals court on Tuesday ruled that the state’s medical cannabis regulators cannot keep license applications a secret, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. The court determined denying such information to applicants would be “unreasonable and absurd” as they seek to establish whether the scoring system used by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) was flawed.
The case was brought by King’s Garden, a California-based company that was denied a state medical cannabis license, which said it needed the information to challenge regulators over the rejected application.
“Without all of the information that formed the basis of the Department’s decision, no meaningful review of that decision can occur. … Because applications are not judged solely on their own merits but are ranked competitively against other applications, the only way to determine whether the Department denied Kings Garden’s applications in an arbitrary or capricious manner is to compare its applications against information from those of successful applicants.” – Western District Court of Appeals via the Post-Dispatch
DHSS argued that the medical cannabis constitutional amendment, approved by voters in 2018, requires the information to remain secret.
Since its launch, Missouri’s medical cannabis program has come under fire from businesses and some lawmakers. Last year, more than 800 rejected applicants filed appeals over their license denial, and two months later, the House Special Committee on Government Oversight launched an investigation into the handling of the licensing process. House Democrats have claimed that DHSS obstructed that investigation.
The state is also being sued over its residency requirements for industry licenses.
In March, Lyndall Fraker, who serves as DHSS cannabis czar, told a House panel that officials expect to spend at least $12.4 million fighting legal challenges in the coming year. That money will come from cannabis industry taxes and fees.
DHSS spokeswoman Lisa Cox said the agency plans to appeal the appeals court decision to the state Supreme Court.
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