The Missouri Supreme Court will decide whether state regulators can disclose information contained in the medical cannabis applications they received after Kings Garden Midwest LLC, a company that was denied cultivation licenses in the state, argued that regulators’ decision to keep the information confidential limits its right to appeal.
Meanwhile, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has claimed that it is constitutionally obligated to protect the application information, according to the Missouri Independent, despite lower courts ordering the department to disclose it.
DHSS claims that a provision in the 2018 constitutional amendment that legalized medical cannabis requires it to protect the information. The language included in the amendment states that regulators “shall maintain the confidentiality of reports or other information obtained from an applicant or licensee containing any individualized data, information, or records related to the licensee or its operation,” the Missouri Independent reported.
The DHSS is asking the Missouri Supreme Court to reverse the lower court’s decision in order to uphold the confidentiality provisions outlined in the constitutional amendment.
Kings Garden filed two unsuccessful applications for medical cannabis cultivation licenses, and in its appeal, the company asked for unredacted copies of approved applications to help illustrate that the answers on its applications were similar to those of successful applicants, the Missouri Independent reported.
A Missouri Court of Appeals in the Western District judge ruled in May that DHSS officials should not have withheld the applications, according to the news outlet. Judge Lisa White Hardwick wrote in her ruling that “since applications were ranked competitively, comparing the applications against one another was necessary to determine whether the state denied a license in an arbitrary or capricious manner,” the Missouri Independent reported.
Kings Garden Midwest noted in its brief that the administrative hearing commission entered a protective order that allowed for state regulators to redact applicants’ identifying information when providing the applications that the company requested from the state, according to the news outlet.
Meanwhile, James Layton, an attorney arguing on DHSS’ behalf, claims that the language of the constitutional amendment does not delegate authority to the administrative hearing commission to decide what information is confidential, the Missouri Independent reported.
The DHSS wrote in its brief that application information has been requested “in many, perhaps most, of the 578 appeals still pending” with the administrative hearing commission. The department will not take any action until the issue is addressed in court, the Missouri Independent reported.