PennLive / The Patriot-News won a key ruling Thursday that could force the Wolf Administration into releasing significantly more information about the first wave of applications from companies seeking to open medical marijuana production facilities and dispensaries.
The decision from the state Office of Open Records orders Wolf’s Health Department to republish the applications received last year with far more information available, and far less blacked out.
The health department and the affected applicants have 30 days to comply with the ruling from appeals officer Kyle Applegate, or appeal to Commonwealth Court. Spokeswoman April Hutcheson could not shed light on that decision Thursday, given the late circulation of the ruling.
PennLive, however, was rejoicing in a win that company officials said is key to preserving public oversight of a controversial new industry.
“The medical marijuana industry needs to get up and running in full sunlight – not behind a smoke screen,” said Cate Barron, vice president of content for PA Media Group, the corporate parent of PennLive and The Patriot-News.
“But that’s what resulted when the people going after the grower and dispensary permits were allowed to censor their own applications. Wallace McKelvey’s video displayed the absurd results after all the redactions.”
McKelvey is one of the reporters who has been tracking the start-up of the medical marijuana industry in Pennsylvania, the result of a years-long grassroots effort that saw passage of legislation in April 2016.
Because of the lucrative nature of the medical marijuana industry, the health department has been under tremendous scrutiny to ensure the playing field for winning these highly coveted permits is fair.
The department initially allowed grower / processor and dispensary applicants to self-redact what they considered proprietary information on a copy of the application they submitted to the department.