It’s hard to imagine how much worse the Division of Public and Behavioral Health (DPBH) could have possibly screwed up bringing legal marijuana sales to Nevada despite the stated objective of the Legislature to create the national “gold standard” for regulatory approval and oversight.
In fact, the unbelievable level of in-the-shadows secrecy about its operations would make Pablo Escobar himself green with envy.
Back in August, would-be Medical Marijuana Establishment (MME) operators submitted to DPBH more than 500 applications — some weighing close to a ton; and that’s with only slight embellishment — and paid the princely sum of $5,000 to have those applications reviewed, evaluated, rated and ranked by the Division.
DPBH then gave those applications to nameless, unidentified bureaucrats — or independent contractors — no one knows for sure — to evaluate. The applicants were given no information whatsoever as to who was doing the evaluations, what their qualifications and experience were, or what biases they may or may not bring to the evaluation process.
For all we know, they could have been street dealers from Harlem.
After three months of reviewing hundreds of thousands of pages of documents, these shadowy evaluators — who may or may not have been required to wear ski-masks coming and going from work — released composite scores for each application on Nov. 3.
To give you just a hint of how screwed up this grading process was, one of the highest-rated applicants applied for three dispensary licenses in different parts of the state.
Same application for all three locations.
Three wildly different scores.
How in the world is that possible?
Don’t ask the Division. It’s stonewalling public records requests and keeping the whole operation as secret as what goes on at Area 51. Indeed, the level of omerta being deployed by DPBH personnel would make Michael Corleone himself proud.
While each application was secretly graded on seven separate “Merit Criteria” categories, the Division has only released the composite scores of each application, not the sub-scores for each category.
So out of a possible total of 250 points, let’s say an applicant scored 183. Where did the application come up short? Was the security plan found deficient? Was the business plan judged less than ideal? Did the enterprise lack sufficient funding?
No one knows. Because the Division refuses to disclose the information. Not only to the applicants, but to the public. Even for applicants who signed a “consent to release” form allowing the Division to publish the information.
This is not what the Legislature intended. This is not a “gold standard” operation.
It’s way past time for the DPBH to stop operating in the shadows like common back-alley drug dealers and bring this evaluation process into the light of day through full public disclosure and transparency.
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, a conservative grassroots advocacy organization. He can be reached at www.MuthsTruths.com.