Consumer Protection Commissioner Says West Haven Marijuana Grower Can Proceed
The Consumer Protection Department will not revoke the marijuana growers license of a Fairfield company whose manager failed to disclose that he had a similar permit revoked in Boulder, Colo. two years ago.
Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein informed Advanced Grow Labs CEO David Lipton of the decision in a Friday letter. The lab was one of four companies awarded licenses in January to grow marijuana for Connecticut’s medical marijuana program. The company is currently building its facility in West Haven.
But its license came under scrutiny this week after the Boston Globe reported that its manager, John J. Czarkowski, had a permit to grow marijuana in Boulder, Colo. revoked in 2012 after the city found more than a dozen violations. Czarkowski did not disclose the license revocation during the vetting process in Connecticut. The Hartford Courant on Wednesday reported that Czarkowski had resigned from his job with Advanced Grow Labs following the revelations from Boulder.
After a factual review, Rubenstein said his department believes that the company as a whole was also misled by Czarkowski.
“Despite our concerns with Mr. Czarkowski, we have concluded that the best course of action for Connecticut’s medical marijuana program, and the patients it is designed to serve, is to allow Advanced Grow Labs to retain its medical marijuana producer license. We did not reach this decision lightly,” Rubenstein wrote.
“Our conclusion is based on our conviction — after factual review — that Advanced Grow Labs, which is primarily a Connecticut-based company whose principals have long-standing roots in the state, was equally misled by Mr. Czarkowski despite having done a thorough background check prior to retaining him,” Rubenstein wrote.
Rubenstein also cited the company’s decision to sever its relationship with Czarkowski after confirming the Colorado compliance history was accurate.
Even though he had marijuana production experience, Czarkowski was “not the entirety of its team.”
Rubenstein said they were convinced Advanced Grow Labs did its due diligence prior to retaining Czarkowski and if it wants to hire a new consultant it would need the Consumer Protection agency’s approval.
State Rep. Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, said Rubenstein made an “appropriate decision” Friday by removing Czarkowski from the application.
But Candelora said the fact Czarkowski was able to “slip through the cracks,” calls into question the “entire vetting process.”
Candelora said state officials should take another look at everyone who received licenses to grow medical marijuana in the state.
“If he slipped through the process did anyone else?” Candelora asked. “From the beginning to the end of the process we need to make sure the people involved have the utmost integrity. The credibility of the process has been called into question.”
He said the state needs to ensure that all the growers and dispensaries abide by the regulations, which includes ascertaining whether “people have been sanctioned in other states.” He said applicants for medical marijuana licenses should be held to the same standard as someone applying for a gun permit, where they need to produce reference letters.
Candelora said in California and Colorado, two states that have legalized marijuana, the number of drugged driving accidents has increased along with the number of cases where children accidentally ingest marijuana.
“Going forward I hope they vette all the applicants to make sure no other grower has similar issues,” Candelora said. “It’s too important of an issue.”
West Haven Mayor Edward O’Brien said he learned of the state’s decision Friday afternoon. Advanced Grow Labs has secured its zoning permit from the city and is in the process of building its facility, the mayor said.
“We’re going to keep a close eye on them,” O’Brien said.