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ACLU Questions Secrecy of Medical Marijuana Cultivation Approvals

Posted: December 04, 2016|Category: Medical Marijuana Category: Open Government

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ACLU STATEMENT ON REFUSAL OF DEPT. OF BUSINESS REGULATION TO RELEASE INFORMATION ON APPROVED MEDICAL MARIJUANA CULTIVATORS

ACLU of RI executive director Steven Brown issued the following statement today about the Department of Business Regulation’s decision not to release information about medical marijuana cultivator applications recently approved by the agency:

“The ACLU of Rhode Island is deeply concerned about the secrecy surrounding the medical marijuana cultivator applications that have recently been approved by the state Department of Business Regulation. 

“We are not aware of any exemption in the Access to Public Records Act that would authorize keeping these approved applications secret, nor, to our knowledge, has any been cited. There are no trade secrets or confidential information involved in disclosing the approved businesses, nor does this information come close to rising to the level of a ‘clearly unwarranted invasion of personal privacy’ protected from disclosure under APRA. These are not personal or investigatory records, but approved business applications for a highly-regulated commercial venture. The mere fact that these approvals may ultimately not lead to the issuance of a license is beside the point.

According to a DBR spokesperson, the approved applicants have ‘demonstrated a successful history of supplying medicine to compassion centers and an ability to quickly operate under an issued license.’ By keeping the approval information secret, the Department loses the opportunity to avail itself of information that affected individuals might be able to provide to confirm that determination. 

“The ACLU has an abiding interest in protecting privacy rights when appropriate, but we fail to see any compelling privacy interests here that would outweigh the public's right to know. Indeed, the thirty pages of emergency regulations issued by DBR to provide for this approval and licensing process, and the reasons cited by the agency for the emergency, only highlight the legitimate and strong public interest in release of this information sooner rather than later, and now, not nine months from now.

“For all these reasons, the ACLU urges prompt release of this information.”

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