A state employee said he destroyed personal notes used to grade applications to grow weed under the state’s new medical marijuana law after he was told they were not public records.
Mark Nye, an Ohio Department of Commerce employee, testified Monday in Franklin County Common Pleas Court that he got rid of his notes after winners were announced in November.
Nye’s testimony could influence the judge’s decision in a lawsuit brought by failed applicant, Ohio Releaf, which alleges state regulators didn’t score its application fairly or even fully disclosed how the scores were determined.
The lawsuit could delay the full implementation of Ohio’s Medical Marijuana Program by its scheduled start date on Sept. 8 because it seeks an injunction stopping some growers from launching their operations until Ohio Releaf can appeal its score.
Nye said he was told by department officials that his notes were not public records and that he was “allowed” to dispose of them.
“Personal notes have never been a public record under Ohio law, and it would be incorrect to describe them that way,” the commerce department said in a statement.
But Nye’s notes could have provided evidence in an administrative appeals hearing sought by failed applicant, Ohio Releaf, which is seeking to prove it deserved one of 12 provisional licenses issued to large marijuana growers.
The company said it wasn’t made aware of all the criteria necessary for a successful application, and
Ohio Releaf is suing the state
The appeal has yet to be scheduled.
Judge Richard Frye is expected to make a decision in the lawsuit later this week after hearing two days of testimony that ended Monday.
Nye’s testimony drew a sharp line of questioning from the judge who asked Nye directly if he was “encouraged” to get rid of the notes.
“I’m not sure I’d say I was encouraged to get rid of them, no,” Nye replied.
The judge also asked Nye if he was aware that he could be called to testify in an appeals hearing, and questioned how Nye could recall every detail of the application grading process without his notes.
Nye was one of 25 graders, mostly state employees, who were split into groups to score different sections of each application before coming together with a consensus score for each applicant.
“In the case of medical marijuana cultivator applications, the ultimate awards were based on consensus scores from the scoring team, so the personal notes of the individual scorers were not relevant to the final scores,” according to the commerce department statement.