Lawsuit claims Georgia’s medical cannabis deals were riddled with fraud and corruption

More Georgia Medical Cannabis Companies Are Suing the State for Rejecting Bids

Another legal battle over medical marijuana is underway, according to attorney Jakes Evans, who represents seven medical marijuana companies that filed lawsuits arguing the bidding process was illegal and plagued conflicts of interest. Companies were losing bidders in the bidding process.

ATLANTA — As the Georgia legislature battles possible changes to Georgia’s medical cannabis law, another lawsuit has been filed against the state.

Eight losing bidders filed a lawsuit in mid-February in Fulton County, claiming the selection process was illegal and steeped in fraud and corruption.

“We’re going to fight to make sure it’s done the right way,” attorney Jake Evans said.

Last year, the Georgia Medical Cannabis Commission granted potentially lucrative licenses to six companies to grow and sell medical marijuana.

For two years, the FOX 5 I-Team investigated medical marijuana licensing in Georgia. The I-Team exposed controversial corporate backgrounds involving five of the winning bidders.

Then, another bid controversy surfaced.

“I was a consultant for one of the companies applying last year,” Rep. Deborah Silcox said at a recent medical cannabis committee meeting.

State Representative Deborah Silcox admitted in a recent committee hearing that she consulted with one of the companies last year, before she was elected in 2022.

Reporter: “What kind of help?”

Silcox: “Advice, advice, because I knew the legislative process. Just advice.”

She voted on a recent medical marijuana bill. She won’t say who her client was, but she says the company lost their bid.

The FOX 5 I-Team also reported how thousands of pages of winning bids, per law, were redacted and kept secret to keep out losing bidders, the public and the media.

“We can’t even see what the applications are. We can’t see any communications. We can’t see any conflict of interest forms,” ​​Evans said.

Evans’ lawsuit argues that all bidders’ scoring was so heavily redacted that no one can say anything about anyone’s bid. This secrecy, according to the suit, leads to possible corruption. Evans is asking the court to revoke the winning bidder’s licenses and release all of the bidder’s documents.

“The sad thing, Dale, is that we’ll never know to what extent there were conflicts of interest. Because we didn’t have a transparent process,” Evans said.

“It’s very hard to trust a system when everything is hidden,” said Richard Griffiths.

Griffiths, was a journalist for 40 years, and now a media ethicist and board member of the First Amendment Foundation.

The First Amendment Foundation has fought vigorously in the legislature and in the courts to make the medical cannabis industry more open and transparent.

“Who is behind the organization? Who are the employees and investors? Who are the people pushing this particular offering?” asked Griffith.

Currently, there are two bills in the Legislature that could be the answer Jake Evan’s clients are looking for. The bills would increase transparency, limit what can be redacted and increase the number of licenses so that some of the losing bidders who appealed can also grow and sell medical marijuana.


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