Marijuana licensing board members must disclose their finances – but what will be public?
LANSING — Board members and employees of Michigan’s new medical marijuana licensing board — responsible for issuing potentially lucrative licenses in an industry expected to gross more than $700 million a year – must submit detailed financial disclosure forms under legislation passed late last year.
But as the board prepared to hold its first meeting in Lansing this afternoon, it wasn’t clear how much of that information would be made public, or when.
Some of the disclosures are only required to be made to the office of Gov. Rick Snyder, which is exempt from the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.
In a controversial move in May, Gov. Rick Snyder named as board chairman former Hours Speaker Rick Johnson, who until recently was a Lansing lobbyist. Johnson told the Free Press he worked on the medical marijuana legislation by giving advice about what form the law should take. But he said he had no client on the legislation and offered his advice for free.
Johnson told the Free Press in May he sold his stake in the Dodak Johnson lobbying firm to his partner, former House Speaker Lew Dodak.
Under the law, Johnson and other board members, plus the executive director and other key employees, must submit to the governor’s office a financial disclosure statement listing all assets and liabilities, property and business interests, and sources of income for both themselves and their spouses.
It wasn’t clear when those disclosures had to be submitted to Snyder’s office or whether they had been received today.
Snyder’s office did not respond to e-mails Friday and this morning asking about the status of the financial disclosure reports and whether and/or when they would be made public.
The law requires board members to make other disclosures to both the governor’s office and the board by Jan. 31 of each year.
Those include affirmations that the member or member’s spouse, parent, child, or child’s spouse has no financial interest or is employed by a licensee or applicant; disclosures of interests in any property that could directly or indirectly be involved in the medical marijuana industry, and disclosures of any other information as may be required to ensure that the integrity of the board and its work is maintained.
Employees must submit to the board annual disclosure forms that affirm the absence of prohibited financial interests; disclose any property interests that could involve conflicts, and disclose any potential conflicts involving close relatives, plus any other relevant information.
And board employees other than the executive director and employees considered “key employees” must submit to the board the same detailed financial disclosures that board members and key employees must submit only to the governor’s office.
Jason Moon, a spokesman for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, said the disclosures and affirmations that must be submitted to the board have been requested of board members and employees and are expected to be received within the next couple of weeks.
Portions of those records will be available to the public through FOIA requests, Moon said.
In addition to Johnson, of LeRoy, the board members are: David LaMontaine, a Monroe resident and business agent and executive board member of the Police Officers’ Association of Michigan; Nichole Cover, a Mattawan pharmacist, health care supervisor for Walgreens and chairwoman of the Michigan Board of Pharmacy; Donald Bailey, a retired sergeant for the Michigan State Police from Traverse City, and Vivian Pickard of Bloomfield Hills, who is the president and CEO of the Pickard Group consulting firm and former president of the General Motors Foundation.
Dr. Jim Hines, a Saginaw physician who today became the first candidate for governor to file the required 15,000 valid nominating signatures with the Secretary of State’s Office, called for expansion of the FOIA at a Lansing news conference and said “full disclosure and being above board is very important” in connection with the medical marijuana licensing board.
Rick Thompson, a medical marijuana advocate and board member of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said anyone appointed to the board or nominated by the governor or legislative leaders “should be required to disclosed their income sources.”
Thompson said that “in Lansing’s political arena, influence is wielded by shadowy groups and our record for transparency in government is abysmal.”
Though some personal information protections should be in place, “greater disclosure by appointed officials will minimize the controversy in their decisions and increase citizen confidence in their work,” he said.