LITTLE ROCK (AP) — Members of Arkansas’ medical marijuana regulatory commission used different scoring guides when ranking cannabis growing license applications earlier this year, causing inconsistencies in panelists’ grading.
The AP cites a source that reviewed the five-member Arkansas Medical Marijuana Commission’s scoring of companies’ applications.
The analysis found that Commissioners Travis Story, James Miller and Dr. Stephen Carroll turned in score sheets that showed the grader what the top possible score was for each category. Commissioner Carlos Roman used a scoring guide that listed a range of possible grades for each category. Chairwoman Dr. Ronda Henry-Tillman used a guide without any numbers assigned to each qualification level.
The effect of the small differences in guides was that Henry-Tillman and Roman consistently gave applicants scores below the maximum amount allotted for each level of qualification, while Story, Miller and Carroll gave the maximum allowable score for each qualification level, according to the review.
The state Department of Finance and Administration doesn’t know how or why the commission submitted three different score sheets. Commissioners have declined comment since the scoring process began.
The differences in the score cards are “manifestly unfair and probably unconstitutional,” said Hilary Bricken, an attorney who helps cannabis companies with regulatory compliance.
“It creates an uneven playing field based on the subjective judgment of one person on the panel versus the rest of the panel,” she said.
Democratic Rep. Scott Baltz said the growing license process should be scrapped and restarted.
“There’s just so much out there,” he said. “Where there’s that much smoke there’s got to be some fire.”
The discrepancy is considered the latest in a series of irregularities in the licensing process uncovered by unsuccessful applicants, lawmakers and the media. Arkansas legalized medical marijuana in 2016, but it remains unavailable in the state.
The commission planned to award the state’s first five medical marijuana growing permits in March, but a circuit judge barred the plans, finding fault in the commission’s process for ranking marijuana cultivation applicants. That ruling has been appealed to the state Supreme Court.