(Chuck Muth) – On Monday, the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH) mailed out the results of its three-month review of over 500 applications for Medical Marijuana Establishment (MME) licenses. That same day, it published the results on the Division’s website for those applicants who signed a “consent to release” form.
The problem is the Division only published partial scores.
The ratings/rankings show only the total number of points each applicant for an MME dispensary received without including the number of points awarded in each of the seven categories that were evaluated.
As such, the vast majority of dispensary applicants who did not receive a provisional license from the State of Nevada have absolutely no idea why their application was rejected.
On Tuesday I sent an email to Pam Graber, the Education and Information Officer for the Medical Marijuana Program, asking…
“Are you releasing just the total scores…or will the scores for each category be made available, as well?”
Ms. Graber’s response was…
“Scores for categories will not be released.”
When the Nevada Legislature approved the dispensary bill in the 2013 session, it was clear the intent was to establish a world-class regulatory system for marijuana every bit as exceptional and transparent and above special interest influence as our gaming regulation system.
Unfortunately, the DPBH decision to withhold the complete rating details – not only from the public, but from the applicants themselves – is the exact opposite of an open and transparent system; opening the process up to suspicion of corruption on the part of some applicants.
As such, on Wednesday afternoon I submitted an official “public records request” asking for the release of the full point scores for those applicants who signed a consent to release form. You can read the letter by clicking here.
Disappointingly, I received a response later that afternoon from Pam Graber, the Education and Information Officer for the Medical Marijuana Program, denying our request.
“The information you requested is not available because it is included in NRS 453A.700. Documents created by the Division, if they are created from the confidential applications, are considered confidential regardless of whether they provide identifying information.”
To buttress her denial, Ms. Graber cited the following from NRS 453A.700…
“Except as otherwise provided in this section, NRS 239.0115 and subsection 4 of NRS 453A.210, the Division and any designee of the Division shall maintain the confidentiality of and shall not disclose: (a) The contents of any applications, records or other written documentation that the Division or its designee creates or receives pursuant to the provisions of this chapter…”
But that claim simply doesn’t hold water.
If the DPBH is allowed, by law, to release and publish the total point score for an MME applicant who signed a consent to release form, then there clearly can be no reason whatsoever for not releasing the point scores by category that added up to the total point score.
It’s simply unacceptable that the DPBH can pick and choose, at its own discretion, what scoring information will and will not be released to the public, let alone the individual applicants.
If, for example, the DPBH published a rating score for Applicant X of 150, there’s no reason not to break down that score thusly…
- Financial resources: 20 points
- Business experience: 40 points
- Patient convenience: 10 points
- Impact on the community: 10 points
- Size of facility: 10 points
- Security: 40 points
- Nevada tax contributions: 20 points
- TOTAL: 150 points
These are just numbers and scores, not confidential application information.
After receiving Ms. Graber’s denial of our public records request, I made this exact argument in a follow-up email…
“But the ratings and rankings obviously aren’t included in this, at least as far as those applicants who signed the consent to release form. Are the point scores per category available to the individual applicants themselves if they make such a request?”
Thursday morning I received the following curt reply…
“We are developing a process for providing scoring information.”
“Developing a process”?
Come on. This is nothing more than filling out an elementary school report card and sending it home to mom and dad.
MME applicants have spent tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, securing property, hiring experts and completing the official licensing applications.
And those applications weren’t the kind of one-page application you and I fill out to get a new Visa or MasterCard. Some of them were thousands of pages long and weighed as much as a brick.
There are millions of dollars at stake for the applicants, not to mention the reputation of Nevada’s new medical marijuana industry and regulatory apparatus.
We all deserve better than this.
Only by releasing the point scoring by category can the public, not to mention the applicants themselves, know where a potential operator was strong and/or weak.
Only by releasing the point scoring by category can the public, not to mention the applicants themselves, know where a potential operator needs to improve their business plan to be a successful MME operator in Nevada.
Only by releasing the point scoring by category can the public, not to mention the applicants themselves, know that the evaluation process was fair and untainted by special interest influence.
Only by releasing the point scoring by category can the public, not to mention the applicants themselves, judge Nevada’s new medical marijuana regulatory system as world-class, just as our gaming regulatory system is.
Anything short of full transparency in this regard will be embarrassing for the State of Nevada, the Governor, the Legislature and the DPBH.
And expensive litigation – which inevitably will cost Nevada taxpayers a bundle! – is right around the corner.
DPBH should release those total point scores by category today. Not this weekend. Not on Monday. Not next week.