State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

After resistance, DOH must release medical marijuana details

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Sep 5, 2017 5:09 AM

The DOH denied requests for more information on the medical marijuana permitting process for several months. (Photo by AP)


(Harrisburg) -- For several months, the state Health Department has been refusing to disclose who is on the panels that scored applications for medical marijuana licenses.

But now, the Department of Open Records is ordering the agency to release the information. 

The Open Records decision comes after protracted back-and-forth between the DOH and PennLive.

After releasing permits to grow, process and sell medical marijuana to select applicants, the department wouldn't name the panelists who had made those decisions.

The agency argued that might make panelists vulnerable to threats or bribes.

But Erik Arneson, executive director of Open Records, said that reasoning is flawed.

"Not everybody on the panels was involved in reviewing every application," he said. "Thus, revealing the identities of everybody would not disclose to any applicant anything about the people who reviewed their application."

He noted, a similar process happened when Pennsylvania legalized casinos.

"In the casino process, the people who make the decisions are publicly known and make their decisions in public, and I don't recall there being any of those kinds of problems," Arneson said.

The Health Department has 30 days to either comply and release the names of its panelists or appeal.

It hasn't said what it'll do.

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