Losers appeal Ohio medical pot licensing decisions

State officials are scrambling to hold more than 60 appeal hearings for companies that did not win medical marijuana cultivator licenses in Ohio.

So far, 68 of the 161 rejected applicants have filed for a “119 hearing,” in which a hearing officer listens to the state and the business present their cases on why the licensing decision should stand or be reversed. The window is still open for more rejected companies to request hearings.

“We are just in the process of getting them all scheduled,” said Ohio Department of Commerce spokeswoman Stephanie Gostomski. She added that the hearing she attended lasted two hours and the applicant was a no-show.

Late last year, the state awarded 24 cultivator licenses — a dozen small scale and a dozen large scale.

After the hearing, administrative hearing officers give their recommendation on what should happen. If the applicants don’t like the outcome, their next legal remedy is to file a lawsuit against the state.

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Ohio voters in November 2015 rejected a ballot issue to legalize marijuana for medical and recreational use. State lawmakers, though, adopted a law making medical marijuana legal in 2016. Regulators spent 2016 and 2017 establishing rules and reviewing applications from those who want licenses to grow, process, test and dispense medical marijuana.

Not everyone is happy with the process, particularly some who failed to win cultivator licenses.

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The Ohio Department of Commerce vigorously defended the process used to pick winners and losers, saying applicants had to clear the initial requirements in five areas before moving on to the second level of scoring.

Identifying information was removed so scorers didn’t know the players behind each proposal, according to the department. And no one scorer passed judgment on all segments of an application.

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