Audit finds problems with medical marijuana program rollout in Ohio

CLEVELAND - For children with Epilepsy, terminal cancer patients and others struggling with health issues we’ve repeatedly heard how access to medical marijuana can make each day more manageable.

But as delays mount in getting Ohio's medicinal marijuana program off the ground, a shocking new report reveals where the Department of Commerce is falling short with sick Ohioans stuck in the middle.

Continuing news coverage of questions surrounding the implementation of Ohio's medical marijuana program as well as phone calls prompted the state auditor to take action.

"I asked my staff to take an initial look. We found some issues," said Ohio State Auditor Dave Yost.

Among them were inconsistent application standards for those seeking cultivating licenses, Yost said.

"It's tough to roll out a new government program for sure, but other states have managed to do this without the kinds of problems we saw in Ohio's program," Yost said.

According to Yost, the Department of Commerce also exceeded its legal authority when it handed out two more licenses than permitted.

He believes the move was an attempt to correct some of the agency's errors and inconsistencies.

 "We didn't do something as basic as guarding confidential information and passwords here in Ohio and that's troubling. Making math errors is troubling. You've got staff that can check each other's work," Yost said.

Cleveland defense attorney Ian Friedman has been aware of Ohio's struggles for some time.

"I've seen mistake after mistake by the state of Ohio in trying to implement the rules surrounding medicinal marijuana," Friedman said.

Those suffering from illness are a big reason why Yost said Ohioans should care about the findings in this audit.

"The human cost of inept government work is that those things are delayed, the intention of the legislature hasn't been given effect yet and that is a tragedy," Yost said.

Yost called the work by the Department of Commerce sloppy and said Ohioans deserved better.    

"There's some new personnel involved with the program, and I think we're going to see things pick up and get to where they need to be," said Yost.

The director of the Department of Commerce acknowledges there were opportunities for improvement in this process.

However, the director fired back and said the courts have already upheld that the Department of Commerce does have the authority to award additional licenses.

The state's program was supposed to be up and running last Saturday.

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