The Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission is investigating potential conflicts of interest by those who reviewed the state’s medical cannabis applications after an investigation by the Washington Post discovered several of the “independent experts” had ties to companies whose applications they reviewed.
The applications were reviewed by Towson University’s Regional Economics Studies Institute, who oversaw 20 experts scoring the applications. However, the state Department of Legislative audits criticized the commission for using the institute because they, after an audit, concluded that the deal between the university and the MMCC circumvented “competitive procurement” standards resulting “in a lack of assurance that these services were obtained at the most advantageous cost to the State.”
According to the Post review, Julia Germaine, co-founder of Massachusetts’ Temescal Wellness, was among those reviewing applications and on an affidavit indicated she has “no known relationships” with individuals applying for a cannabis license; however it was later discovered she reviewed the application for Temescal, submitted by Ted Rebholz, a director and consultant, and her husband Nial DeMena, the co-founder of her Massachusetts company. Two heads of a Washington D.C. dispensary were also present on the panel and their business partners were among those seeking to expand into the state market – one disclosed the relationship, the other did not. Germaine claims she didn’t know her husband was a part of the Temescal application, and her husband claims he didn’t know she was an evaluator.
Daraius Irani, director of the RESI said the institute “took every step to ensure a fair process,” adding that while “it is not a conflict of interest simply to know someone professionally” working in the industry, Germaine “would have not have been an evaluator at all” if she had disclosed her husband was the general manager and she was affiliated with a potential licensee.
Patrick Jameson, the executive director of the MMCC, said the body “takes its role concerning the integrity of [the program] and fair application process very seriously and has been closely monitoring any and all situations of non-compliance to ensure the public trust.”
“The Commissioners will evaluate all available background investigation information prior to their deliberative process before issuing any licenses,” he said.