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Company that graded medical marijuana applications rejects claims of conflict

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (KMIZ)

During an hours-long hearing, several Missouri state lawmakers raised concerns that the company charged with scored applications for medical marijuana licenses had a conflict of interest.

In August, Missouri awarded Wise Health Solutions LLC a contract to score every application for the medical marijuana industry.

Members of the House Special Committee on Government Oversight questioned Lyndell Fraker, the director of medical marijuana regulation, and Richard Moore, the legal counsel for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.

Much of the questioning revolved around the application process, including the results of Wise Health's grading.

Wise Health is owned by Oaksterdam University, a non-accredited school centered on cannabis business education. OU held a "Bootcamp" in Missouri after voters legalized medical marijuana in November 2018.

The seminar was held in April and May and was, in part, "designed to provide support for minority and small-business owners seeking to secure a cannabis business license in Missouri," according to the company's website.

In July, the Wise Health submitted a bid to become the scorer for medical marijuana license applications.

Multiple lawmakers pointed to companies that submitted multiple applications for different licenses. Some companies "copy-pasted" their responses to the same questions across different applications, according to Rep. J. Eggleston, R - Maysville. Scorers gave identical answers varying scores, he said.

"It seems the scoring process may have had some flaws," Eggleston said. "The appearance (of favoritism) is there when you have different scores for the same answers."

Fraker and Moore said, in part, that the difference in scores may have been based on the fact that they were different applications. Moore added that the people scoring the applications could have varied their grades incidentally.

"Some college professors are hard graders, some are not," Moore said. "There is subjectivity to the human analysis of information."

According to DHSS, the state accepted 369 of the roughly 2,300 applicants. Appeals and lawsuits from those rejected by the state have already started filing in.

"We expected this. We knew this is where we would be when the licenses were issued," Fraker said. "I think we need the appeals process to play out. That’s what the appeals process is for."

Moore said the state expects about 600 appeals.

The executive chancellor for OU, Dale Sky Jones, told ABC 17 News over the phone that the claims Wise Health had a conflict of interest are false.

"Not only are (the claims) irresponsible," Jones said. "They border on frivolous and libelous."

Fraker and Jones said separately that no one who attended the OU bootcamp received a license from the state.

The chairman of the committee, Republican Rep. Robert Ross, said Wednesday's hearing will not be the end of the discussion on medical marijuana licenses.

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Barry Mangold

Barry Mangold reports for ABC 17 News on weekday evenings and anchors weekend evening broadcasts.

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