The Pennsylvania Department of Health has restricted public access to information about who scored applications for the state’s medical cannabis industry as part of a batch of temporary regulations, according to a PennLive report. The law already bars applicants from obtaining the names of the scorers, but not the general public or journalists.
The Office of Open Records has ruled that the Health Department must disclose the names of the application scorers but the department appealed that decision and the matter is still pending. Yesterday, the Commonwealth Court ordered the department and PennLive to file briefs addressing what effect the new regulations could have. PennLive made its initial records request in May 2017.
“The Department of Health does not have authority to enact regulations that nullify the Right-to-Know Law. Only the General Assembly has authority to declare what is and what is not a public record. This case would establish a dangerous precedent that would allow agencies to make any information non-public simply by enacting a regulation.” – Joshua Bonn, an attorney for PennLive, in the report
The Health Department argues that keeping the names secret safeguards scorers from outside pressure and threats to their safety. The department also argued that reporters could, eventually, become medical canna-business applicants and then be privy to the names of the reviewers.
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