By John Fitts
Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein, joined by Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman and other officials on Tuesday announced that four applicants have been chosen as the first-ever producers of medical marijuana to serve the needs of seriously ill patients in Connecticut. Those approved sites include a Simsbury location.
The Commissioner announced the four successful producer applicants, which were chosen in a competitive application process from a total pool of 16 applicants. They are:
• Advanced Grow Labs, LLC -- facility to be located in West Haven on the site of the press conference
• Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions, LLC -- facility to be located in Portland
• Curaleaf, LLC -- facility to be located in Simsbury
• Theraplant, LLC -- facility to be located in Watertown
"We are grateful to the governor and the Consumer Protection committee for selecting Simsbury as one of four sites in Connecticut for the medical pharmaceutical facility," First Selectman Mary Glassman said. "The facility will reinvigorate an underutilized industry building and bring additional tax dollars to our community."
In a prepared release, Malloy said, "For years, I have heard stories from people considering the palliative use of marijuana to relieve their pain from a debilitating disease or illness, but who want to follow the law. This new law allows a doctor and a patient to decide what is in that patient’s best interest. We are carefully implementing this program with a number of safeguards in place to ensure that we avoid some of the problems encountered in other states. But let’s be clear, patients in these circumstances deserve our compassion and understanding, not arrest and criminal records.”
By a 4-2 vote in December, the Simsbury Zoning Commission approved an Curaleaf's application for a marijuana production facility at 100 Grist Mill Road in Simsbury.
During the public hearing, company representatives and consultants presented details of their plan, focusing on issues such as location, aesthetics, security, the proposed product and more.
Dwight H. Merriam of Robinson & Cole gave a power point presentation in which he talked about many aspects of the building. He talked about the state’s stringent security requirements inside and out, the plan for climb-resistant yet aesthetically pleasing fencing, 24-7 security the site’s natural screening and low visibility.
No one from the public spoke against the proposal at a public hearing but commissioner William J. Fiske strongly opposed the idea, saying marijuana is the most sought after illicit drug in the U.S. He also said security could break down and employees could succumb to temptation.
“This does not need to be part of Simsbury,” Fiske said at the meeting.
Since then two residents Robert H. Kalechman and Joan Coe have decried the idea to the Board of Selectmen.
However Curaleaf President Eileen Konieczny, a 20-year oncology nurse, board member of the American Cannabis Nurses Association and former executive director of the Connecticut Cannabis Business Alliance, spoke strongly about the benefits of a traditional medicine when she appeared before the Simsbury Zoning Commission in early October.
“When you see that medical cannabis can probably change the world, you don’t stop talking,” Konieczny she said at a past Simsbury Zoning Commission meeting.
In an earlier November Patch article, Curaleaf chief operating officer April Arrasate shared more about the company’s philosophy.
Others in the company include Chief Executive Officer Robert Birnbaum of Greenwich and Compliance officer Joseph Stevens, founder of Greenleaf Compassion Center, the only operational medical marijuana alternative treatment center in New Jersey.
As required, each of the four businesses now must establish escrow arrangements in the amount of $2 million, and pay their annual license fee, at which time their operating license will be issued by the Department. Producers must be operational within 180 days of licensure. Additional information about the licensed producers will be made available in the near future.
The Department’s Request for Applications announced that the award of three producer licenses was anticipated, but the RFA also provided that the Department may award additional licenses. During its evaluation, the Department took into account a variety of factors – including the applicants’ expectations of initial and long-term patient demand, initial and phased expansion of production capacities, production roll-out timetables and anticipated product mixes -- and determined that patients would be better assured a reliable and steady source of pharmaceutical grade marijuana by licensing four producers.
Selection of the growing operations is a major step in the implementation of Connecticut General Statutes Chapter 420f, which provides for the palliative use of marijuana for patients suffering from one of 11 specific debilitating illnesses, whose doctors believe that such treatment is appropriate.
Since passage of the 2012 legislation, the Department has implemented an online patient, physician and caregiver registration system, sought and acquired passage of detailed regulations to implement the program’s operation, and launched the competitive selection process for the state’s medical marijuana production and dispensing system.
Companies were chosen on a competitive basis after a detailed and thorough review of the applications submitted by 16 applicants hoping to be awarded these licenses. The applications, each containing 700 to more than 1,000 pages, provided detailed information about applicants’ financial ability, relevant experience, location and site plan, and production, security, safety, business and marketing protocols. Applications also included any plans to enhance the working environment of employees, provide a compassionate need program, engage in or fund scientific research, give back to the community, prevent substance abuse and operate in environmentally beneficial ways.
With the producers now selected, the Department will continue its competitive selection process for the state’s first medical marijuana dispensary facility licenses. Between three and five of these licenses are expected to be awarded within the next two months.