Mt. Vernon marijuana grow facility nipped in bud, denied license by state

Steve Chapman

Big Adventures, LLC, a Mt. Vernon business that applied for a license to become a medical marijuana cultivation facility after medical marijuana was legalized in Missouri in November of 2018, was turned down for the license by the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS). Also denied licenses were Ozark Leaf Farms, LLC and JD Agriculture Corporation, both of Aurora, and NGW MO I, of Marionville, were all also denied licenses.
Big Adventures was one of more than 500 applicants who submitted applications for a license to become a medical marijuana cultivation site. Sixty were approved for licenses.
According to a press release found on the DHSS website, the agency used a “blind” scoring system to determine which applicants would get a license.
“Throughout this entire process, it has been important to us to be fair and transparent as we implement all pieces of this program,” Lyndall Fraker, director of the DHSS Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation, was quoted as saying in the press release. “This is why we chose to employ a ‘blind’ application scorer who had no access to applicants’ identifying information.”
Applicants for the medical marijuana cultivation facility licenses had to turn in an application consisting of 68 questions asked of all license applicants (the DHSS also took applications for licenses for medical marijuana testing facilities, dispensary facilities, manufacturing facilities and transportation facilities), as well as 11 questions designed specifically for cultivation facility applicants. The first 68 questions focused on topics such as facility security, the character and experience of the applicants, business experience, experience in cannabis, and the site’s potential for positive impact in its community. The other 11 questions focused on topics such as the applicant’s experience in agriculture or horticulture, experience in maintaining a sanitary product, and the technology which would be used in growing medical marijuana. The maximum score possible on an application was 1900. The top scorer in Missouri received a score of 1584.20; NGW MO I, received a score of 1459.52, Big Adventures received a score of 1337.80, JD Agriculture Corp. received a score of 1289.03 and Ozark Leaf Farms received a score of 1247.11.
 DHSS stated the denials “are issued for several reasons, including failure to meet minimum qualification, the results of an analysis for substantial common control, the results of application scoring, or application withdrawal.”
Ryan Moore, owner of Big Adventures—the company set to operate out of the former Mt. Vernon Pamida building— declined to be interviewed for this article, but did provide a statement.
“We are disappointed with the scoring process,” he said. “There are several companies that submitted three identical applications at the same location and received three different scores. This is a faulty grading system using human opinions to score the applications. These scorers ultimately decide who can be in Missouri’s cannabis industry.” Attempts to locate the owners of NGW MO, JD Agriculture Corp. and Ozark Leaf Farms for comment were unsuccessful as of press time
Moore is not alone in his disapproval of the scoring process. Paul Callicoat, owner of the Sarcoxie Nursery Cultivation Center, filed suit against the DHSS in Cole County Circuit Court on Monday, Dec. 30, over their scoring system. The suit argues the location criteria in the scoring system gave “bonus points to the applicants who satisfied such criteria, by enhancing the final overall score by thirty to forty-percent … for those applicants seeking to locate their cultivation facility in an ‘economically distressed area’ identified by specific zip codes … thus resulting in a scoring enhancement that disproportionately far outweighed all other criteria to be evaluated.”
The suit asks the court to declare the 60-license limit on medical marijuana cultivation licenses and the “zip code bonuses” unconstitutional; it also asks the court to direct Randall Williams, director of the DHSS and Lyndall Fraker, director of the Medical Marijuana Section of the DHSS, to cease awarding “the unconstitutional geographical bonus points,’ and to also direct them to award Sarcoxie Nursery Cultivation Center a license to act as a medical marijuana cultivation facility.
The suit also sought a restraining order against the DHSS to prevent them from awarding the licenses. The restraining order was denied on Thursday, Jan. 2.


Lawrence County Record

312 S. Hickory St.
Mt. Vernon, MO, 65712


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