House Democrats in Missouri are claiming that the Department of Health and Senior Services – the agency responsible for regulating the state’s medical cannabis program – obstructed an oversight committee’s investigation of the program, according to a memo by House Democrats’ council outlined by the Kansas City Star.
The memo, written by Casey Millburg, counsel for the Missouri House Democratic Caucus, also contends that Republican Gov. Mike Parson’s office was able to influence how industry applications were scored and a report that was used to limit the number of licenses awarded, the report says. Moreover, Millburg said one of the consultants hired to score the applications had a conflict of interest.
“The allegations of executive branch interference in the committee’s work and the potential implications that raises are disturbing. Unfortunately, a careful and thorough review of the records provided to the committee raises other serious concerns.” – Millburg in the memo via the Star
The memo was filed shortly after more than 800 cannabis companies who had their applications denied filed appeals against the decision. A February review by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch found that about two dozen groups that each won five or more licenses had ties to out-of-state cannabusinesses or the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association (MoCannTrade). The approvals for companies linked to MoCannTrade are part of a broader investigation by the House because of the organization’s ties to Steve Tilley, an advisor to the governor who also serves as a lobbyist for the cannabis trade group.
Parson decried Millburg’s memo as political – a product of the Democrats with an election looming.
“There’s absolutely no interference. I don’t even know why some aide would be able to write a letter and all of a sudden that even becomes newsworthy,” Parson said to reporters on Tuesday. “If we do that, we’ll be chasing stories from here ‘til Election Day on both sides of it. It’s ridiculous even to be repeated.”
The memo contends that the husband and wife co-founders of cannabis company KindBio had direct communication with Chad Westom, the founder of cannabis consultancy firm Veracious Compliance Solutions. The memo alleges that Veracious joined with Oaksterdam University to form Wise Health Solutions (WHS) – the company that scored the applications.
The memo further claims that the wife had spoken to Westom about her industry application.
“At the point Mr. Westom’s conversation with KindBio occurred, all involved in WHS would have been well aware of their obligation to avoid conflicts of interest, such as by simultaneously consulting for a vertically integrated marijuana client in Missouri while scoring marijuana licensure applications,” the memo alleges.
The husband and wife firm were ultimately awarded a license and Westom subsequently offered his company’s consulting services.
Westom has previously denied any potential conflict of interest, telling the Star that the firm was “extremely diligent to prevent even the appearance of a conflict, and all personnel provided the State of Missouri with a signed attestation regarding confidentiality and conflict of interest.”
The House investigation is ongoing.