Medical Marijuana Ohio: Department Of Commerce Faces Potential Lawsuit From Company Denied A License

Did Ohio hire a convicted drug offender to evaluate applications for cannabis growers?

Medical marijuana grower Cannascend suing state of Ohio.
Uriel Sinai / Getty Images

Did Ohio hire a convicted drug offender to evaluate applications for cannabis growers?

Officials with the medical marijuana program in Ohio may be facing a lawsuit over the state’s application process for cannabis growers. One of the largest cannabis companies in Ohio was denied a grower’s license, and now the CEO wants to sue.

According to a High Times Magazine report, Cincinnati-based CannAscend was recently refused a license despite complying with all the conditions required by state regulators. Calling the process “broken,” CEO Jimmy Gould accuses the Ohio Department of Commerce, the state authority that grants cannabis licenses, of giving weed-growing permits to companies with political ties.

Ohio Department Of Commerce Medical Marijuana Program Unfair?

To qualify for an Ohio medical marijuana license, an applicant must submit a lengthy multi-page application, something Gould calls “a glorified essay writing contest.” A department employee then reviews the application and assigns a score based on several factors. Scoring 132.72 points, CannAscend did not receive approval from the department. Ohio also denied 97 other candidates for a license.

According to Gould, other companies received similar scores from the department but were still approved for a medical marijuana license. He claims at least one of the companies had an inside connection with Ohio House Speaker Bill Batchelder as well as Chris Schrimpf, a Republican party official, an accusation that a company spokesperson denies.

Department of Commerce representative Stephanie Gostomski says the cannabis license process is “comprehensive, fair, and impartial,” and Gould’s complaint is groundless. Companies can be rejected for a number of reasons, including failing a background check. Gostomski notes that companies can file an appeal with the department if they receive an unfavorable decision.

Did The State Hire A Convicted Criminal?

Gould also accuses Ohio of hiring a convicted drug dealer to evaluate medical marijuana licenses. Records obtained from Ohio publication the Columbus Dispatch indicate that Commerce Department independent contractor Trevor C. Bozeman is one of three outside individuals tasked with evaluating cannabis companies for approval. After Gould performed a background check on Bozeman, it was discovered that the reviewer was convicted of several drug-related charges in 2005. Bozeman’s company, ICANN Consulting, was awarded a contract worth $150,000 from Ohio to score pot company applications.

Gostomski contends ICANN met all the qualifications for the contract and has since delivered quality assessments. However, the department spokeswoman stated they would investigate Gould’s claims about ICANN. As of yet, Bozeman has not commented on the issue.

Medical marijuana dispensaries in Ohio have yet to open.
Patients across Ohio are still waiting for marijuana dispensaries to open as the state continues to evaluate applications. Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images

Last week, Ohio granted 12 licenses to medical cannabis growers. In addition to the planned CannAscend lawsuit against the state, Gould and his team of attorneys plan to appeal the department’s decision to deny his company a license.