Don’t Give Missouri License to Beat a Dead Horse

My father loves to tell jokes. Most of them are horrendously stupid and not funny. To make matters worse, he loves to repeat them, much to my chagrin. Because of this, I became fond of the phrase, “don’t beat a dead horse”, to rebut any attempt he would make to retell these terrible jokes. This would signal to him that the joke was not funny the first time and there was thus no need to repeat the joke. Unfortunately, he never learned this concept and continues telling these awful jokes to this day.

But this “beating a dead horse” is not unique to just my father and his joke-telling. Just as my father does not learn from his not-so-witty mistakes, the state of Missouri does not learn from theirs as well.

Repeatedly, the state meddles in what should be decided by the private sector, not learning that this intrusion brings more harm than good. The most recent occurrence of this was just announced a few days ago, with the state releasing the names of the businesses that received licenses to sell medical marijuana in Missouri. 

Over 900 applicants sought a license to sell medical marijuana in Missouri. To obtain a license, they were tasked with filling out a lengthy application that included writing responses to numerous questions regarding how they would impact the community and their plans for marketing among other valuable questions. These answers were then judged and scored by a third-party company that the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services delegated the process to.  

This is the first of many problems in the process. According to the Kansas City Star, to find a third party to judge the applications, Missouri “put out a call for bids for companies to score the medical marijuana applications, [but] it got no responses.” This should have been the first red flag that this process was a horrible idea.  Nonetheless, the state was undeterred and on its second call, received interest.

To judge the third party, Missouri instituted a scoring system that would rate the prospects. The highest possible score of this system was 218, but the highest scorer and ultimate winner of the job to judge the medical marijuana applications, a company called Wise Health Solutions, received a whopping 106! This is red flag number two because Missouri handed out the task of judging the applications to a company that received less than 50% on its scoring test.

This does not exactly inspire confidence in this third-party scorer and whatever confidence that the state of Missouri had in Wise Health Solutions should be erased after the licenses were released. Since those who qualified for medical marijuana licenses became public, numerous applicants and lawyers who were associated with the process have cited irregularities and inconsistencies within the scoring process. 

One notable instance of this was applicants provided the same answer to a question and received wildly different scores. Some applicants who applied for multiple licenses “copy and pasted their answers on basic questions. But those identical answers received wildly different scores”. This happened even though the Missouri scoring guide stated that the same answer should receive the exact same score. This is red flag number three, with Missouri blatantly disrespecting the rules that it set out for applicants to follow. 

But the abuses don’t end there. In addition to indiscriminately giving the same answer different scores, applicants also received zeros for lengthy responses to application questions. One applicant stated that she received zero points on a question even though she provided exactly what the questions asked. The Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association ascertained that about 67 percent of the application pool received a score of zero on a question about marketing plans. The Association that this was so egregiously bad that it had to have been an error in the process.

Another applicant had support from the Mayor and 297 out of the 300 people in the small town that he planned to build his dispensary. In addition to this support, he planned to use revenue from the dispensary to aid the local police force. But this got him nowhere on the question on the application about the economic impact on the local community as he scored poorly on it. This apparent lack of attention to the application process earns Missouri a fourth red flag.

Apparently, though, Missouri is blind to the faults of this process. State officials still claim that the process was “secure and legitimate”, even though it was obviously not. Disgruntled applicants and their lawyers have started to file lawsuits against the state, causing an unnecessary headache for the Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). The DHSS has already begun soliciting bids from attorneys who can defend the state in these lawsuits, which will be a misuse of taxpayer dollars.

But the underlying point remains: all of this could have been avoided if Missouri had left the task to the private sector. Hopefully, Missouri voters and legislators will learn their lesson so they will not repeat the same mistakes when recreational marijuana becomes legal.  I am not optimistic though. Missouri loves to beat a dead horse.


Image: Paul Sableman

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