Report: Lobbyist’s ties to MO medical marijuana officials raises questions

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A Missouri lobbyist reportedly under state and federal scrutiny had direct contact with state medical marijuana officials as they were developing the program’s regulations and taking business license applications, a newspaper reported.

According to The Kansas City Star, medical marijuana license applicants raised the question of whether lobbyist Steve Tilley received an unfair advantage in terms of access and influence.

Tilley reportedly made specific suggestions about licensing rules, according to The Star, which based its report on hundreds of pages of emails between the lobbyist and state medical cannabis regulators.

His clients include the Missouri Medical Cannabis Trade Association (MoCann Trade).

Tilley didn’t immediately comment about the story when his lobbying firm was contacted Monday.

A state legislative panel is investigating possible misconduct in the state’s handling of MMJ licensing, which sparked more than 800 appeals and allegations of conflicts of interest among officials.

Scrutiny of the process recently escalated to officials close Gov. Mike Parson, including Tilley, a close friend and adviser.

The Star has reported that Tilley also is under scrutiny by the FBI, but Tilley, through a colleague, told Marijuana Business Daily that he’s unaware of the investigation.

A MoCann trade official recently downplayed the state legislative inquiry and said he doesn’t expect it to affect the program’s rollout later this summer or fall.

Lisa Cox, spokeswoman for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, told MJBizDaily via email recently the state MMJ program had an “open-door approach” from the beginning.

She also said that communications between program director Lyndall Fraker and Tilley were “commensurate” with other interested cannabis industry representatives.