Columbia school board member in running for medical marijuana contract

Columbia school board member in running for medical marijuana contract

COLUMBIA, Mo. - A member of the Columbia Board of Education said she hopes the state will consider her company's application to help award medical marijuana business applications.

Della Streaty-Wilhoit is owner of ARW Equity Advisors, one of seven companies that bid to serve as "blind scorer" for Missouri's medical marijuana licensing division. 

The scorer will review applications that businesses have sent in to earn one of the first licenses for dispensaries, cultivation facilities and infused-product manufacturing. The names on the application will be redacted or initials will be used for review by the scorer, who will then provide the scores to the state for licensing.

Streaty-Wilhoit won a seat on the Columbia Public School board in April. She said the scoring process related closely to her expertise.

"The state contract was an opportunity to bid on work related to my expertise in personnel, natural resources and statistical analysis in blind scoring; a technique to score applications without reference to any personal information and removing bias," Streaty-Wilhoit said in an email. "I certainly hope to have an opportunity to be consider[ed] for the bid."

One other Missouri company, RT Facility Management in Bridgeton, applied for the job.

Five companies from outside Missouri are also vying for the contract:

  • Extra Step Assurance (Bellefontaine, Ohio)
  • Foundations Business Solutions (Overland Park, Kansas)
  • Gonnell Law (Denver)​​​​​​​
  • Nimdzi Insights (Seattle)
  • Wise Health Solutions (Carson City, Nevada)

Colorado, Washington and Nevada have each legalized marijuana for recreational and medical use. Ohio legalized medical use of marijuana in 2016, while Kansas has yet to legalize marijuana for any use.

Missouri Office of Administration spokesperson Brittany Ruess said the value of the "blind scorer" contract would be released when the state awards the bid.

Jean Gonnell of Gonnell Law said she came across the job while studying Missouri's fledgling medical marijuana program. Gonnell has focused her Denver-based law practice on the cannabis regulatory system in Colorado since 2012, helping companies put together applications for state licensure. 

"So I decided to apply because I have a huge amount of experience in marijuana.," Gonnell said. "What better way to use that experience in a way to help license people?"

Some Colorado cities use scoring systems to review license applications similar to the one Missouri will use. Gonnell said the system does help keep bias out of the review and scoring system.

"I think that's actually a fantastic way to get the system started, not having any bias, and awarding the licenses to the entities and people that have the best applications," Gonnell said.

The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services said that at the end of June, it had received 543 pre-filed application fees. 

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