Medical marijuana regulators in Maryland are asking companies that have received preliminary licenses to grow and process the drug whether they had personal or business connections to the independent experts who graded their applications.
The inquiry follows a report in The Washington Post this week that revealed several ties between evaluators and businesses.
With a few exceptions, state cannabis regulators chose businesses to enter the potentially lucrative legal marijuana industry based on how they were scored by 20 experts hired by the Regional Economic Studies Institute (RESI) at Towson University.
The connections between some applicants and some of those experts raise new questions about how the state tried to avoid conflicts in setting up a legal marijuana industry where hundreds of businesses were competing intensely for a limited number of licenses for growing, processing and selling the drug.
The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission sent emails to businesses this week asking them to disclose any relevant relationships, according to representatives of multiple recipients of the emails. The representatives, who described the emails to The Post, asked not to be identified because the commission had marked the communication confidential.
“Specifically, the commission is requesting each applicant to certify that none of its agents, including owners, investors and employees, has any relationship with one of the Subject Matter Experts retained by RESI that could be viewed as a conflict of interest,” the email read.
“If any individual in your organization had any affiliation or relationship with any of the Subject Matter Experts, please describe in detail the name of the individuals, the nature of the relationship and the earliest dates on which that relationship existed.”
The email did not specify what the panel planned to do if it learned that specific companies had links to application reviewers. Patrick Jameson, executive director of the commission, declined to comment on the messages. He said last week that his agency was investigating potential conflicts of interest.
The Post reported that the person listed as general manager of Temescal Wellness’s processing facility is married to a woman hired to evaluate applications from prospective processing businesses. The couple told The Post that they were unfamiliar with each other’s positions.
An attorney for Temescal Wellness, which received preliminary licenses to grow, process and sell the drug, said last week the company did nothing wrong and was cooperating with the commission’s request for information.
The commission is scheduled to consider final approval for medical marijuana growers and processors this month, contingent on them passing final background checks and inspections.
Aaron Gregg contributed to this report.