Another error found in Ohio's medical marijuana cultivator scoring process

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A new error in how Ohio regulators scored applications to grow medical marijuana has surfaced, but the Ohio Department of Commerce says it will not affect the 24 provisional licenses it awarded in November. 

An ongoing audit of the scoring process by Ohio Auditor Dave Yost's office identified a discrepancy between the individual marks and final scores awarded on scoring rubrics for Ohio Clean Leaf LLC, which applied for sites in Dayton and Carroll. It chose the Dayton location after it was issued a provisional license in November for a smaller, level II grow site. 

The Department of Commerce, which oversees marijuana cultivators, processors and testing labs, acknowledged the discrepancy Monday but insisted the final scores awarded were accurate.

Auditors found that the company was marked "no" for a requirement on the security portion of one application but received full credit. On the second application, several optional security criteria were marked "no," yet the score awarded was three points instead of one.  

The scoring differences would have been enough to disqualify Ohio Clean Leaf, Chief Deputy Auditor Robert Hinkle wrote in a letter to the commerce department on April 20. Hinkle wrote that the audit had found multiple errors while checking the scorecards' math, but this one "materially affects the results" of the level II grow license awards. 

But the department isn't going to pull Ohio Clean Leaf's license. Mark Hamlin, senior policy adviser for the department, said the "no" marks were incorrect but the final scores were accurate, therefore Ohio Clean Leaf scored high enough to receive a license. 

"It is impossible to determine which element of the scoring sheet was incorrect -- the indication of criteria met or the points awarded -- without reviewing the application itself," Hamlin responded in a letter sent Monday.  

Hamlin wrote that the agency reviewed the applications and concluded both met the criteria in question and earned the correct number of points.  

Ohio Clean Leaf is a collaboration among brothers Robert Landis and David Landis III, who run a trucking and logistics company based out of Lockbourne, and a trio of "small batch" marijuana cultivators from Oregon.

The department has contracted Ernst & Young to perform an independent review to validate all scores as it defends itself against three lawsuits and 67 administrative appeals from unsuccessful applicants. The appeals were put on hold in February after Yost's office identified a scoring error that incorrectly prevented an applicant from receiving a license.

In that case, the department said, an employee inadvertently downloaded the same application subsection scores twice, resulting in incorrect scores for one would-be winner and nine other applicants. That applicant, PharmaCann Ohio LLC, had sued the state over a different aspect of the application grading process.

The agency has rebuffed calls to pause the award of final cultivation licenses despite scoring errors and criticism of the process. Last week, Hamlin told legislators he was confident the process was "legal and valid" and would be supported by the Ernst & Young review.

Several unsuccessful applicants have told cleveland.com they did not receive the correct scores for what was contained in their applications, and they lost points for excluding information that actually was included in the application. Applicants were disqualified for failing to meet a certain threshold of points in each of the five plans scored: business, operations, quality assurance, security and financial. 

Of the 185 applications for large and small grows, about 71 percent were disqualified. All but 12 level II applications were disqualified.

Department spokeswoman Stephanie Gostomski could not say Monday whether the agency checked the scorecards and score totals before awarding provisional licenses in November. Gostomski said Ernst & Young will do more than check the math; it will examine how each application was scored and whether the right scores were awarded.

"We need the confidence and the trust of the people -- we know that," Gostomski said Monday. "Not only do we have our team, we have the auditor's office and we have Ernst & Young looking at these and we're going to be completely transparent every time we find one of these things."

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