Yost calls for suspension of marijuana cultivator licenses

In this June 28, 2017, photo, marijuana plants grow at the Desert Grown Farms cultivation facility in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher, File)

COLUMBUS (WCMH) — The Ohio Department of Commerce is moving forward its marijuana licensing process despite the revelation that one of the evaluators hired to review applications has a felony drug conviction.

A spokeswoman for the department said the agency has no plans to stop the process or to reevaluate the decisions that have already been made.

State auditor Dave Yost joined the chorus of critics. “This is an epic fail,” Yost said. “And I think the only thing that can be done right now is to stop the process in its tracks. Let’s get to the bottom of how this happened and whether it impacted the integrity of the process.”

But Commerce spokeswoman, Stephanie Gostomski, says the process will not stop. She said 12 licenses for large scale cultivators were awarded after a scoring process that involved more than 20 reviewers.

Not long after the winners were announced word surfaced that one of the reviewers, Trevor Bozeman has a 2005 felony drug conviction in Pennsylvania.

Bozeman’s company, iCANN was hired to evaluate applications and help write state rules for the state’s medical marijuana industry.

Gostomski says the state was not aware of the conviction adding that it was not information required in the state’s request for proposals.

Bozeman told the state he has a PhD in medicinal chemistry and an extensive background in the medical marijuana industry.

But Yost says the felony conviction should have been a disqualifier. “People might say, ‘well doesn’t that make you better off, aren’t you better qualified if you’re a convicted drug dealer?’ I think it’s the exact opposite. I think it really hurts the credibility of the process.”

Yost said his staff is continuing to gather information. But, he said, the best option is for the Commerce Department to stop the process and look for problems now. “I don’t want to do an audit and come up next summer and say, ‘oh well we’ve got problems and we ought to start over again’,” Yost said. “They can do this quickly, now. They can bring in a third party for an independent review. It needs to happen and needs to happen today.”

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