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Missouri Legislators Accuse State Department of Medical Cannabis Program Obstruction

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A memo was released on September 14 accusing the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) and Governor Mike Parson of obstructing the investigation of the state’s medical cannabis program.

The report was written by Casey Millburg, who represents counsel for the Missouri House Democratic Caucus, in response to several lawsuits that were being conducted regarding applicants who were not awarded state licenses for their medical cannabis businesses. According to The Kansas City Star, these individuals questioned the licenses process, and suggested that there were irregularities regarding who was chosen to receive a license. “The allegations of executive branch interference in the committee’s work and the potential implications that raises are disturbing,” Millburg assessed in his memo. “Unfortunately, a careful and thorough review of the records provided to the committee raises other serious concerns.”

Missouri’s medical cannabis program was first approved by voters in 2018, but it wasn’t until May 2020 that scrutiny of how the program was being handled began to unfold. The Kansas City Star reported that, as of September 14, the DHSS had not seen the memo and had no comment to provide at that time. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch noted in a February 2020 article that a handful of applicants received “five or more” licenses, and some of those applicants were from out of state.

While being questioned about the issue, Parson claimed that this was just a way to distract people from the upcoming election. “There’s absolutely no interference,” Parson told reporters. “I don’t even know why some aide would be able to write a letter and all of a sudden that even becomes newsworthy. If we do that, we’ll be chasing stories from here ‘til Election Day on both sides of it. It’s ridiculous even to be repeated.”

The memo states that Parson’s office had the opportunity to create rules regarding the program on two different occasions. “What is notable about these instances is they reflect an apparent deviation from MMD’s (Medical Marijuana Division) commendable practice of seeking input from a group of stakeholder departments with relevant experience across the executive branch,” the memo reads. “The governor’s office twice had unique opportunities to review advance information and help shape matters that ultimately proved influential to the licensure process and its outcomes.”

The memo concludes with a recommendation to send the report to House counsel, or the FBI, for further investigation.

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