Unsuccessful applicants for the District of Columbia’s medical marijuana program are asking the courts to force reconsideration of their submissions, saying they were rejected by a review panel despite meeting or exceeding the criteria.
Three firms filed a total of five civil complaints to contest the way officials scored and rejected their applications to open a cultivation center to grow cannabis or a dispensary center to sell it to qualified patients, according to the D.C. Office of the Attorney General, reports Tom Howell Jr. of The Washington Times.
The officials who scored and rejected the applications were led by D.C. Department of Health personnel. A spokesman from the Attorney General’s D.C. office said each of the petitions “raise the same allegations, namely that the scoring of their applications was inappropriate.”
Among the plaintiffs is Dr. Michael D. Duplessie of Bethesda, Maryland, who filed a civil complaint last week in D.C. Superior Court claiming the scoring “has been done improperly and not in accordance with relevant laws and regulations.” He asked the court to send the applications from his firm, The Health Company (THC), back to the health department and appoint an “independent, third-party observer to oversee its second review.
D.C. health officials are getting ready to start up the medical marijuana program this summer, more than a decade after residents approved it through a referendum. Since the voters spoke the program had been delayed by Congressional interference and a complex rule-making process.
The city has gone slowly in planning and implementing the program, and required applicants to sign acknowledgements that growing and selling marijuana remain illegal under federal law. Applicants had to agree they cannot hold the city liable for prosecution.
The health department notified six applicants in late March that they can register to grow medical marijuana in the city. Five of them will be located in Ward 5. The city has limited cultivation centers to six per ward, reports The Daily Chronic.
A sixth cultivation site, Phyto Management, has been forced to move from its former site in Ward 7 after the D.C. Council passed an ordinance by council member Yvette M. Alexander (D-Ward 7) that prohibits medical marijuana businesses in “retail priority areas.” Alexander and the company’s chief executive have recently said they are working together to find a new spot for the sixth cultivation center.
Health officials are scheduled on June 25 to approve up to five dispensaries to sell cannabis to authorized patients.
Dr. Duplessie’s attorney, Jason D. Klein, said he filed two “almost identical” civil complaints for another hopeful company, Compassion Centers of America, after it unsuccessfully applied to open both a cultivation center and a dispensary in the District. A third firm, Free World Remedy, led by Jonathan Marlow, also has sought help from the courts, according to the Attorney General’s office.
Dr. Duplessie said he does not agree with the health department’s take on his firm’s financial status and site plans. He also disputed the department’s criticism of his business partners’ level of experience, pointing to their backgrounds in banking and federal law enforcement.
“It appears that the D.C. Board of Health has either not read my application or the playing field is not level,” Dr. Duplessie said. “I think the process is beyond flawed.”
Attorney Klein said on Friday that city health officials need to defend their decision beyond saying “it’s just our right.” He argued the application process has lacked transparency and communication between the health department and applicants.