ALBANY — When the State of New York approved the use of medical marijuana in 2014, the applicants to dispense the drug were vetted and reviewed by a panel of experts said to have deep backgrounds in several fields.
The identities of the panel’s members had been a mystery since. By July 2015, the panel had chosen five companies that would receive exclusive statewide medical marijuana licenses, a potentially lucrative award in a state with nearly 20 million residents and hundreds of thousands of potential patients.
A September 2015 Freedom of Information request by The New York Times, seeking the names of the panel’s members, was delayed nine times. On Friday, the request was effectively denied, as the department said that it did not “maintain records” or contact information for the panel.
On Monday, however, the department reversed course and disclosed the names of the panel’s 17 evaluators: all state employees, most with little or no prior professional experience in medical marijuana.
They included a number of Health Department scientists as well as three architects, an accountant and an auditor. They were chosen for their specialties — including chemistry, internal…