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Rejected Ohio MMJ Applicant Sues State Over Racial Equity Provisions

A would-be medical cannabis cultivator in Ohio is suing the state over the racial-equity provisions included in the licensing process which forced the firm out of contention, Cleveland.com reports.

The complaint, filed on behalf of PharmaCann Ohio, LLC, argues the “racial quota” provisions in the state medical cannabis law run afoul of the state Constitution’s equal protection clause. The suit seeks to force the state to award licenses to the top 12 scoring applicants rather than bumping high-scoring companies in favor of those with lower scores but run by minorities. The plaintiffs are also seeing a temporary order to stop the Department of Commerce from issuing provisional licenses to the two minority-led firms that received licenses despite ranking outside of the top 12.

According to the report, PharmaCann ranked 12th, while Parma Wellness Center, LLC ranked 14th, and Harvest Grows, LLC ranked 23rd – yet both were selected by the Commerce Department.

“Our company values diversity and inclusion. Remedying the effects of past discrimination is a worthy goal of the Ohio legislature. In this case, however, there simply is no basis in evidence that economic disparity exists in an industry that itself doesn’t yet exist in Ohio.” – PharmaCann policy director Jeremy Unruh to Cleveland.com.

The state’s medical cannabis law requires that at least 15 percent of industry licenses are awarded to “economically disadvantaged” groups, including; African-Americans, Indigenous populations, Asians, and Hispanics or Latinos.

The complaint contends that the businesses were not actually “economically disadvantaged” because they were able to pay the $750,000 application fee in an escrow account or surety bond.

According to the report, at least one more lawsuit by a rejected applicant is expected to be filed in the state.  

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