A state employee’s “inadvertent error” caused one medical marijuana company to receive a lower score than it earned and prevented it from receiving one of 12 available grow licenses, the Ohio Department of Commerce said Thursday.
The scores from one section of the application review process were inadvertently recorded a second time for a different section, affecting 10 of the 110 large grower license applicants, agency spokeswoman Stephanie Gostomski said.
PharmaCann Ohio LLC would have scored 8th and been awarded a provisional license had the correct scores been downloaded from the secure server where reviewers saved the scores.
The department’s rules restrict the number of cultivator licenses to 24 — 12 small grows and 12 large grows — until after the program is operational Sept. 8. Gostomski said no provisional licensee will lose their license, and the department is examining how it can legally award one to PharmaCann.
“We want to do what’s right and we want the highest scoring applicants to receive these licenses,” Gostomski said.
PharmaCann, which planned to grow marijuana in Buckeye Lake, scored 12th highest of all non-disqualified applicants but did not get a license. The department awarded licenses to two lower-scoring, minority-owned businesses to comply with state law requiring 15 percent of all marijuana business licenses go to minority-owned companies.
PharmaCann sued the state in December over the “racial quota,” claiming the state did not demonstrate a need for the minority set-aside.
Jeremy Unruh, policy director for Illinois-based PharmaCann, said Thursday it was never their intent to take away licenses from other companies and that the newfound error could resolve its case against the department.
“We’ve always been for diversity and inclusion and if this is a resolution that allows for that then this is a good way all around ,” Unruh said in an interview.
Gostomski said the error was discovered this week while reviewing the department’s scoring process in tandem with a review by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost. Yost alerted the department last week to a potential security weakness in its online application scoring process.
Sixty-nine unsuccessful cultivator license applicants are appealing their scores with the state.