Missouri Department of Health denies conflict of interest with group hired to score medical marijuana licenses

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- In an hour long legislative hearing Wednesday, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services outlined how the medical marijuana program is working since voters approved it in 2018.

"The citizens wanted this to be a patient-physician relationship program that would give this medical marijuana as an alternative medication," said Lyndall Fraker, Director of the Medical Marijuana Division of the DHSS.

Currently, more than 36,000 patients have applied for medical marijuana cards.

"We've already met and exceeded the MU study after nine months, and it was for three years," Fraker noted.

But, the selection process for issuing cultivation and manufacturing licenses is under scrutiny, both by companies that were rejected, and lawmakers.

"We're talking about a huge industry here, and so far, it's been nothing but a boondoggle," said State Senator Doug Libla, R-Poplar Bluff.

Libla contends Wise Health Solutions, which was hired to score the applications, had a glaring conflict of interest.

Wise Health Solutions is a partnership with two out-of-state companies. One of those, Oaksterdam University, offers paid classes for potential licensees to bolster their applications.

Representatives asked state regulators about that during Wednesday's hearing.

"People had to pay to go and then they were instructed on the application process. Is that correct," asked Rep. Peter Merideth, D-St. Louis.

The DHSS says no, because the group signed a 'no conflict-of-interest' provision in advance.

"I'm not aware of any applicants who took their training, but it could have been before this was awarded," said DHSS Deputy Directory Amy Moore.

After the DHSS's presentation, lawmakers had roughly 15 minutes to answer questions because of time constraints. Another hearing will be held next week.