Connecticut: Four Companies Licensed To Grow; Medical Marijuana Sales By Summer

ConnecticutNewEnglandPotLeaf

By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Four companies in Connecticut have been licensed to be the first to legally produce medical marijuana in the state. Patients have been allowed to possess marijuana since October 2012, but patients aren't allowed to grow their own, and sales are illegal until dispensaries open later this year.

The grow operations will be located in Simsbury, Portland, West Haven and Watertown, reports Bill Weir at The Hartford Courant.

The announcement was made on Tuesday at a warehouse in New Haven where Advanced Grow Labs, one of the four licensed companies, will operate. The other three companies licensed to grow are Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solution LLC in Portland, Curaleaf LLC in Simsbury and Theraplant LLC in Watertown.

All four companies said they expect to have marijuana ready for sale this summer.

"We're making progress folks -- we're going to bring relief to people here," said Governor Dannel P. Malloy, who attended Tuesday's announcement. "This law allows a patient and a doctor to decide what is in a patient's interest.

"For years, I have heard stories from people considering the benefits of medical marijuana and desperately want to follow the law and desperately who want to follow the doctor's advice and who desperately want relief from the pain from the disease they are suffering from," Malloy said.

State officials last fall, when 16 applications were submitted, had expected to issue only three licenses. But the number of authorized medical marijuana patients has increased since then, from about 900 to nearly 1,700. In addition, two of the companies -- Curaleaf and Advanced Grow Labs -- tied for third place; both were granted licenses.

Each of the 16 companies applying for a growing license had to pay $25,000 to apply. The applications were judged using nine criteria, including security, business plan, and site plan.

"We anticipate that that will rise and accelerate" as the four companies begin supplying dispensaries with cannabis, according to William Rubenstein, commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection, which is in charge of overseeing the state's medical marijuana program.

Whether demand will increase enough so that the state needs to issue additional growing licenses is hard to predict, according to Rubenstein. "Right now we think we have the right number of producers in the next year or so, probably the next couple of years," he said.

"The applications were voluminous, each containing 700 to more than 1,000 pages and provided detailed information about the applicants' financial stability, their relevant experience, their location and site plan, their production, safety, business and marketing protocols," Rubenstein said, reports Ken Dixon at the Danbury News-Times.

Rubenstein said there will be no regulations on the cost of medical marijuana, and that the free market will decide prices. What those prices will be remains to be seen, according to Ethan Ruby, CEO of Theraplant. The website priceofweed.com, which compiles anonymous user-reported entries, gives a current range of $250 to $350 an ounce in Connecticut.

The state expects to issue licenses for three to five dispensaries -- which will sell the marijuana produced by the licensed growers -- by April. The state has 21 applicants for dispensary licenses.

The Connecticut Legislature in 2012 voted to legalize the medicinal use of marijuana for patients who get a physician's authorization.

As of Tuesday, 143 physicians have registered with the state to certify patients for medical marijuana use. That number will also increase once patients have a safe place to buy cannabis, according to oncology nurse Eileen Konieczny, president of Curaleaf.

"In my experience as a nurse, a lot of physicians that I know are reluctant to write recommendations because they don't want their patients to have to go to the black market," Konieczny said. "I think that those numbers will increase."

(Graphic: Releaf)