- Associated Press - Thursday, March 6, 2014

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut’s consumer protection commissioner said Thursday he remains confident in how his agency has vetted the state’s newly selected medical marijuana producers, despite recently learning an employee at one firm had previously lost his license to run a marijuana facility in Colorado.

William Rubenstein told The Associated Press that his agency will decide in the coming days what action, if any, it will take against Advanced Grow Labs LLC for failing to disclose the issue.

“We take this very seriously,” he said. “We would expect we will take some action, but we want to be fair in this process.”

Rubenstein said his agency’s response could range from taking no action to revoking the license granted to the firm, which plans to open a medical marijuana production facility in West Haven.

Andrew Glassman, a lawyer for Advance Grow Labs, said the employee in question has resigned.

“We are cooperating with the Department of Consumer Protection on their investigation of this situation,” he said.

The Boston Globe first reported that John J. Czarkowski, director of production for the company, and his wife Diane, were forced to shut down their Boulder, Colo. medical marijuana dispensary and cultivation facility, Boulder Kind Care, in 2012 because of numerous violations. Citing city and state court records, the newspaper said the violations included the company lying to obtain a construction permit to expand operations and storing marijuana in unauthorized areas.

Rubenstein said information about Czarkowski’s municipal licenses was not disclosed to his office. During its vetting process, Rubenstein said his office checked any state licenses issued to growers by Colorado, but was not aware that municipal licenses existed. He said his office has since contacted the city of Boulder, spoken with local officials and obtained relevant documents.

In light of the Advance Grow Labs issue, State Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said he believes the Department of Consumer Protection needs to review the four firms chosen as the first producers for Connecticut’s fledgling medical marijuana program.

“I think they should revisit their process and assure the public,” he said. “They have to bring credibility to this process.”

Beside Advance Grow Labs, the other producers include Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions, LLC, to be located in Portland; Curaleaf LLC, to be located in Simsbury; and Theraplant LLC, to be located in Watertown. There were a total of 16 applicants.

Rubenstein contends his agency has thoroughly reviewed the applicants, conducting background checks on every financial backer and key employees.

Asked why the agency has not physically visited each location yet, Rubenstein said the agency required an extensive application, which included site and build-out plans. He said most “are just empty spaces.” The growing operations are expected to be up and running sometime this summer.

In the meantime, the Department of Consumer Protection is expected to announce its chosen applicants for dispensary facility licenses by the end of the month. Three to five licenses will be issued.

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