Probe into rollout of medical marijuana expands

JEFFERSON CITY (AP) — A legislative probe into the rollout of Missouri’s medical marijuana program has expanded into Gov. Mike Parson’s office.

A House panel is seeking records involving the governor’s deputy chief of staff, chief operating officer and a longtime adviser to the governor who has been under FBI scrutiny, The Kansas City Star reported. Parson is a Republican.

The Missouri House Special Committee on Government Oversight sent a letter Thursday to the Department of Health and Senior Services demanding records of interactions with industry insiders and details on how key decisions were made.

The governor’s office and DHSS did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Rep. Robert Ross, R-Summersville, the committee’s chairman, wrote in the letter that the records request stemmed from “too many unanswered questions” by the department’s officials during earlier public hearings.

The investigation, which had been paused because of the COVID-19 pandemic, resumed because of DHSS Director Randall Williams’ recent comments that its staff have continued their work and dispensaries are on track to open this summer, Ross said.

Ross also provided the committee with a copy of a whistleblower complaint accusing the department of lying to legislators in public testimony. The unsigned letter, which Ross received in March from someone purporting to be a DHSS employee, also questions the qualifications and salaries of those running the medical marijuana program.

The state Auditor’s Office said it had received two whistleblower complaints about the operations and the application process of the medical marijuana program. Steph Deidrick, spokeswoman for Democratic state Auditor Nicole Galloway, said the information was referred to law enforcement after review by its public corruption and fraud division.

The newspaper reported in March that the department was served with a federal grand jury subpoena last year seeking information about four medical marijuana applicants.

The legislative investigation was sparked by allegations of irregularities and alleged conflicts of interest over in how license applications were scored.

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