Lawsuit claims Georgia medical marijuana licenses clouded by back room deals

A medical marijuana company has filed a lawsuit against the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission alleging the evaluations and scoring of medical cannabis bid applications was clouded by "conflicts of interest" and licenses were "bought and sold through closed door politics and back room deals."

"If there is no wrong doing or corruption, then why not turn these applications, evaluation sheets, etc. over to the public," said Cumberland Curative President Charlie Arnold.

Arnold believes his company was cheated out of an honest chance to win one of the first ever licenses to legally grow and produce medical marijuana in Georgia.

Cumberland Curative filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court against the Georgia Access to Medical Cannabis Commission claiming essentially – where there is smoke there is fire.

The lawsuit claims the scoring of bids was "clouded by substantial conflict of interest" and that licenses were "bought and sold through closed – door politics and back-room deals."

And the Cumberland Curative president said he can back it up.

"We heard in December of 2020 before the applications were submitted, directly from high up, public officials in both Democrat and Republican Party, that four of the six licenses are spoken for," said Arnold. 

For seven months, the FOX 5 I-Team has investigated the awarding of medical marijuana licenses in Georgia exposing controversial corporate backgrounds involving three of the winning bidders.

FOX 5 also reported how thousands of pages of winning bids, by law, were redacted and kept secret from losing bidders, the public, and the media.

The scoring of those winning bids - by politically appointed commissioners - was also kept secret.

"I smell a rat in the woodpile, this process was destined for handpicked folks," said State Representative Alan Powell.

Hartwell Republican Alan Powell tried to fix what he saw as serious problems in the secretive bid process by adding all the companies protesting the bid awards to the list of winning bidders. 

"It’s not perfect, but it’s the best solution I have right now," said State Representative Bill Werkheiser.

Glenville Republican Rep Bill Werkheiser introduced a bill that would throw out all the bids and start all over.

Both bills ultimately died.

The winning bidders with their secretive scoring evaluations, and their heavily redacted applications were still in business.

"For the public not to know who these teams are and how they are going to be producing medicine, is preposterous," said Arnold. 

Arnold claims the problem is the public and patients don’t really know who the winning bidders are.

His lawsuit claims the Medical Cannabis Commission is legally wrong in keeping thousands of pages of the winning bids as well as the Cannabis Commission evaluations a secret.

The lawsuit argues since a notice of intent to award licenses has been released - under current state law - all the key documents in the bid process should now be available to anyone in the public – including patients.

"The parents are the ones who have more interest in who these people are than anyone else. If someone is making medicine for my child I want to know who that company is and how they are producing that medicine," said Arnold. 

FOX 5 asked the Cannabis commission executive director Andrew Turnage for comment, but got no response.