Marijuana dispensary license holder seeks new location in Groton
Groton – The Illinois-based company chosen by the state to open what would be the second medical marijuana dispensary in southeastern Connecticut is considering a change in location.
Grassroots Cannabis, doing business locally as GR Vending CT LLC, was approved in December to open at a vacant storefront at 78 Plaza Court, adjacent to the former Benny’s in Groton. The town issued Grassroots a letter of zoning compliance Thursday for a new location at 79 Gold Star Highway (Route 184) in a vacant storefront adjacent to Kitchen Beautiful.
The state is expected to review the new location since it was not part of the Grassroots original application, which provides a layout and description of security measures among other details.
Department of Consumer Protection spokeswoman Lora Rae Anderson said if a current license holder wants to move or expand at a location, the DCP Drug Control Division needs to review the plans and sign off on them. They do not need to reapply or submit a new application, she said. If there are changes, or any reason that a facility may have a delayed opening, the Drug Control Division needs to be informed, and needs to approve.
A spokesperson with Grassroots, which grows marijuana in six states and lists 20 dispensaries in operation, was not immediately available to comment on the reason for the proposed move. Grassroots lists dispensaries open in Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Dakota and advertises “coming soon” to Arkansas, Connecticut, New Jersey and Nevada. Some of the dispensaries go by the name Herbology.
Grassroots was one of nine companies chosen among 73 applicants to the state Department Consumer Protection following the announcement last year that the state was expanding its program to meet a growing need. The state has nine dispensaries and four registered grow operations. The first opened in 2014 and before the new licenses were announced in December the last dispensary license was issued in 2016. The number of patients had grown from 8,228 in 2016 to 31,446. The number of medical conditions that qualify patients for medical marijuana has also grown from 11 to more than 30.
The only dispensary in New London County remains Thames Valley Relief on Route 32 in Montville.
The new dispensaries are expected, per terms of the application, to open within 120 days of the Dec. 11 license announcement. If for any reason that a facility may have a delayed opening, the Drug Control Division needs to be informed, and needs to approve. The state conducts a final inspection before opening and none of the nine have informed the state that they’re ready yet, Anderson said.
Anderson said the state, if the number of patients continues to mushroom as it has over the last few years, is likely to consider the possibility of issuing more licenses. The process is likely to change, however, if the state legislature decides to approve the legalization of recreational marijuana. The state has already decriminalized possession of a small amount of marijuana and likely to take up legalization during this legislative session. Connecticut, which legalized medical marijuana in 2012, is one of 31 U.S. states with similar medical marijuana laws.
House Democrats have introduced a bill that would initially allow medical marijuana dispensaries to start retail sales.
Recently obtained documents show that applications for medical dispensaries came from all over the state last year, including two applications for sites in New London and another two in North Stonington.
New London attorney Denise Ansell, who partnered with Dr. Stefana Pecher to form Divine Botanticals, had applied for a license to open a dispensary on the grounds of a larger holistic wellness center adjacent to a 33-acre farm in North Stonington.
Aside from the disappointment of not being granted a license, Ansell said she was shocked to see licenses issued to out-of-state companies, including the only local dispensary. She said locally-owned companies would have a greater economic impact in the state.
“The granting of a license to an out-of-state operator in effect siphons the profits out of state resulting in a loss or deconstruction of our local and state’s economy,” she said in a letter to Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Michelle H. Seagull.
“By the way, insiders suggested hiring a lobbyist to shepherd the application through but I would not be part of a broken system where payoffs trump merit in the selection process further alienating the populace from those they elected or have been appointed to represent them and see to their welfare,” Ansell said in a Dec. 13 letter.
The response from Seagull was that each application was reviewed by a team of DCP employees who collectively agreed on final scores. The review was limited to the criteria set out in the request for applications.
“Finally, while I appreciate you are disappointed in the results of the selection process, I assure you that lobbyist influence or payoffs played no role in the scoring or the selection process,” Seagull wrote.
Pecher has moved forward without a dispensary license, created the nonprofit Better Together CT and established the New England Center of Excellence for Holistic Medicine in North Stonington.
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