State Rep. Scott Baltz sounds off on Medical Marijuana Commission process, accuses commission of changing scores after deadline | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

State Rep. Scott Baltz sounds off on Medical Marijuana Commission process, accuses commission of changing scores after deadline

Posted By on Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 1:32 PM

BALTZ: Calls for medical marijuana license applications to be re-scored by new commission or outside entitiy.
  • BALTZ: Calls for medical marijuana license applications to be re-scored by new commission or outside entitiy.
On Facebook, state Rep. Scott Baltz (D- Pocahontas) sounded off on the state's process to award medical marijuana licenses, which has attracted multiple lawsuits. "The people of the State voted on this issue, and it passed," he wrote. "I think it may have benefits for cancer patients, but if this is going to be done, IT MUST BE DONE RIGHT! WE MUST PUT FAITH AND TRUST BACK INTO THE PROCESS!"

Baltz said that there were irregularities in the Medical Marijuana Commission's process, including the commission chair and another commissioner submitting scores after the deadline in a manner that altered which applicants ended up being chosen for cultivation permits. Baltz has called for a re-scoring of all applicants using an out-of-state, impartial company, or a new judge-appointed commission.

The five cultivation permits issued by the state's Medical Marijuana Commission were frozen an injunction issued last month by Circuit Judge Wendell Griffen, in response to a lawsuit by one of the rejected applicants.

At least one of the commissioners wasn't happy about  the injunction, with Dr. Carlos Roman complaining, "It blows my mind that a judge, a lawyer, could put this trash out." The state attorney general's office — which represents the commission — is appealing to the Arkansas Supreme Court.

According to Baltz, when he began investigating how the process had worked, he received the following information from Mary Robin Casteel, the director of the Alcohol Beverage Control division, which oversees the commission:

I asked her if the chair person of the of the commission changed her scores for the cultivation facilities after the deadline, she told me yes, but wanted to explain. She said the commissioner left some blank. The commissioner came in 2 days later and filled in the blank scores. I asked how many did this move into the top 5 and out of the top 5. She told me it moved 2 up and 2 out of the top 5. Another commissioner came in 4 days late and submitted their scores which moved 1 into the top 5 and 1 out. I was also told of possible tax issues with the top 5.
Scott Hardin, spokesman for the Department of Finance and Administration, said Casteel did talk to Baltz.

"He asked if Dr. [Rhonda] Tillman changed any of her scores, which Mary Robin confirmed. However, it should be noted the submission deadline for commissioner's scores was self-imposed. We told Rep. Baltz that all commissioners, with the exception of one, were contacted to supply missing scores on various applications. While Dr. Tillman's scores were revised, we don't know where specifically that shifted rankings as we did not have scores from one commissioner at that point, so it wouldn't be possible to make that determination. The change in scores would have changed applicant's positions, but whether it was in or out of the top five we don't know."

Hardin also supplied the DFA's response to Baltz's request that the department demonstrate that the applicants scored in the top 10 were in compliance with tax requirements. The department denied Baltz's request to provide "confidential tax records" and noted that persons were distinct from corporations, which might have tax liability. That same argument didn't pass muster with Griffen, who, in issuing a preliminary injunction, cited members of the Osage Creek Cultivation and Delta Medical Cannabis Company also being owners of companies that had their business licenses revoked. Griffen said the commission hadn't adequately considered that fact.

Here's the full comments from Baltz:
I wanted to take a minute to let everyone know what has happened with the Medical Marijuana Commission and the reason the Judge shut it down. I received a call from a person in Little Rock who told me that the way the Cultivation Facilities were being chosen was wrong and needed to be looked at. I asked them what questions and to whom did I need to ask. I made contact with the Director of the Alcohol Beverage Commission who was in charge of overseeing the Marijuana Commission. I asked her if the chair person of the of the commission changed her scores for the cultivation facilities after the deadline, she told me yes, but wanted to explain. She said the commissioner left some blank. The commissioner came in 2 days later and filled in the blank scores. I asked how many did this move into the top 5 and out of the top 5. She told me it moved 2 up and 2 out of the top 5. Another commissioner came in 4 days late and submitted there scores which moved 1 into the top 5 and 1 out. I was also told of possible tax issues with the top 5.
I sent a letter to the Governor and the Department of Finance and Administration requesting this information. I was told by DFA that they were protected by there corporations. So I did not receive anything from them.
There was an injunction filed and Judge Wendell Griffin found probable cause for a hearing. The hearing was held and the Judge shut down the process.
There are several lawsuits pending. There were 90 applications submitted. With the way the scoring process went the State is facing 85 possible lawsuits if we didn't rescore all the applications with a out of State impartial company or a commission appointed by the Judge. That would give the 85 applicants a fair and impartial score and hopefully stop those 85 lawsuits. You would still probably have the top 5 file lawsuits, but that's better than 85. This in my opinion is the very reason why people do not trust the Government and that is the sad part of all this.
The people of the State voted on this issue, and it passed. I think it may have benefits for cancer patients, but if this is going to be done, IT MUST BE DONE RIGHT! WE MUST PUT FAITH AND TRUST BACK INTO THE PROCESS!

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