A lawsuit challenging Missouri’s medical cannabis rules seeks to invalidate the state-imposed license caps arguing that the regulations violate Missourians’ right to farm, the Springfield News-Leader reports. The lawsuit also objects to the “blind scoring” used in the state that included bonus points for applicants located in economically distressed ZIP codes.
The lawsuit, filed by the Callicoat family of Sarcoxie who had planned to turn an old plant nursery into a cannabis cultivation operation, claims that “large corporations” were awarded the “lion’s share” of the 60 cannabis cultivation licenses approved last year.
The plaintiffs argue that state Attorney General Eric Schmitt engaged in “egregious” behavior while the state was creating the program rules. The lawsuit claims that Schmitt sought to hide state government documents that recorded health officials’ actions in setting program parameters. In a deposition, Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) Director Dr. Randall Williams indicated that Schmitt had used his cell phone to conduct state business – a violation under the state’s Sunshine Law as officials’ text messages are considered public record.
Dan Viets, a cannabis attorney who served as chair of the pro-legalization campaign New Approach, said that while he hasn’t seen “evidence of any sort of corruption” related to the cannabis licensing process, he believes there is “tremendous evidence of an element of capriciousness.”
“The so-called scoring system just doesn’t make sense. I don’t think it’s defensible. It’s the Achilles’ heel of the whole licensing process.” – Viets to the News-Leader
Last May, a whistleblower complaint accused DHSS officials of lying about program changes during public testimony earlier in the year. House Democrats later claimed that DHSS officials obstructed an oversight committee’s investigation of the program.
The Callicoat’s have asked the judge to simply enter a judgement in their favor without a trial, which Viets said was “kind of extreme.” He added that the court is unlikely “to do that off hand.”
DHSS Spokesperson Lisa Cox told the News-Leader that the voters approved the licensing caps and argued that the state’s caps “are much higher than comparable states” and meet the demands of patients. The state has issued 192 dispensary licenses.
If the judge sides with the plaintiffs, the DHSS caps would be invalidated. Earlier this year, the state House approved legislation to eliminate the caps; however, the measure stalled in the Senate.