Health Dept. to Court: Dismiss Bethlehem medical marijuana applicant's 'selfish crusade'

Health Dept. to Court: Dismiss Bethlehem medical marijuana applicant’s ‘selfish crusade’

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The Pennsylvania Department of Health filed preliminary objections against a Bethlehem medical marijuana applicant’s lawsuit attempting to shut down the medical marijuana program. (MICHELLE MERLIN / THE MORNING CALL) The Pennsylvania Department of Health is insisting Commonwealth Court dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Bethlehem company that unsuccessfully applied for medical marijuana permits. Attorneys representing the health department filed preliminary objections earlier this week after Keystone ReLeaf sought to shut down the burgeoning medical marijuana program because of a “fundamentally flawed” permitting process . Commonwealth Court does not have the right to intervene because Keystone ReLeaf’s initial administrative appeals before the Office of Medical Marijuana have not yet been resolved, the department argues. “Keystone ReLeaf stands alone in its selfish crusade to judicially fast-track the disposition of its still pending administrative appeals above all others,” attorney Jarad W. Handelman wrote. “…Such a blatant end-run on the administrative process cannot stand, particularly when weighed against the dire public harm that any such relief would virtually guarantee.” The health department issued 12 permits statewide to grow and process medical marijuana and 27 permits to open dispensaries. Approximately 155 applicants have appealed permit denials — over a third of all denied applications. A Morning Call review of more than 130 of those appeals revealed a broad scope of complaints over apparent scoring inconsistencies and disqualifications for seemingly minor omissions. For example, one yes-or-no question worth 50 points yielded a score of 41.38 for one applicant and 6.30 points for another, though both answered in the affirmative. But Keystone ReLeaf has “earned the dubious distinction of believing the rules do not apply to it” by filing a lawsuit in Commonwealth Court, Handelman wrote. BrightStar BioMedics of Luzerne County f iled a narrower lawsuit against the health department but has since dropped it . […]

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