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Consumer Protection Commissioner ‘Disturbed’ By Allegations Against Marijuana Grower

by Brian McCready | Mar 6, 2014 6:30am
(6) Comments | Commenting has expired
Posted to: Agriculture, Business, Health Care, Law Enforcement, Legal, Public Safety, West Haven

Hugh McQuaid file photo

Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein at Advanced Grow Labs facility in West Haven earlier this year

Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein said Wednesday he is “very disturbed about what is alleged” against the manager of a company selected by the state to grow medical marijuana in West Haven.

John J. Czarkowski, a manager of Advanced Grow Labs LLC, of Fairfield, had his permit to grow medical marijuana in Boulder, Colo. revoked on March 2, 2012, because of more than a dozen violations there.

But despite a lengthy application process in Connecticut, state officials were unaware of the status of Czarkowski’s license in Boulder and approved his permit. The news was first reported by the Boston Globe on Tuesday morning, where Czarkowski and his wife, Diane, are listed as members of the executive teams of companies planning to open marijuana dispensaries in Dennis, Haverhill, and Quincy.

“We’re very concerned about the status of the license in Colorado and that this was not disclosed to us by the applicant,” Rubenstein said Wednesday.

Czarkowski, who is listed as one of five key managers for Advanced Grow Labs, represents one of four companies chosen to legally grow medical marijuana in the state.

Rubenstein said an investigation is ongoing, and he’s uncertain what will happen to the approved medical marijuana facility at 400 Frontage Road in West Haven if the permit is revoked.

The commissioner said when Czarkowski filled out the “comprehensive” application to the state of Connecticut, he did so under penalty of perjury. A personal background check including a criminal review was completed on all “key employees,” the commissioner said.

Rubenstein said the state was aware Czarkowski had a Colorado state issued license, but was “unaware” of the separate municipal license and subsequent violations in Boulder. He said Colorado state officials were contacted as part of the review process, but not local Boulder officials.

“We were unaware of the municipal license,” Rubenstein said. “It should have been disclosed to us.”

Rubenstein said the state has received reams of documents from Boulder.

“We will gather the facts as quickly as possible,” Rubenstein said. “I can’t say what the timeframe will be. This is an important process for us to clear up very quickly.”

Rubenstein declined to speculate on what could happen to the company’s application in West Haven if the license is revoked. While Rubenstein declined to speculate, he did say a “key focal point of our evaluation was a history of regulatory compliance in this industry.”

West Haven Mayor Edward O’Brien said he is “concerned” by what happened in Boulder. He said the company’s application is still pending and will be scrutinized much closer.

The Boulder violations

On March 2, 2012, the city of Boulder notified Boulder Kind Care LLC, a marijuana dispensary and production facility, that it was revoking its license. Czarkowski was a co-owner of Boulder Kind Care LLC.

The following are some of the violations found in Boulder according to documents obtained by CTNewsJunkie:

1. The company had its building permit suspended on Jan. 23, 2012, because the other co-owner lied on an application regarding who the contractor was, documents state.

2. During a site inspection in February, marijuana was located outside of the licensed premises.

3. Useable forms of marijuana were not in sealed, labeled containers.

4. Prior requests to inspect the premises was denied.

5. Marijuana plants were found in unlicensed portions of the building.

6. No safe was on site as required.

7. Surveillance cameras were not operational.

8. A six-pack of beer was found in a break room and one bottle was missing on Feb. 2.

9. Medical marijuana was not weighed, measured, or labeled prior to being placed in large trash-like plastic bags and plastic storage containers.

10.  A co-owner appeared to be under the influence of marijuana and had a “dry mouth, white lips, coated tongue and sunglasses that he would not take off.”

11.  A total of 260 plants had to be destroyed because of incorrect record-keeping regarding the number of reported patients.

The city attorney’s office supported the local government’s decision to deny and revoke the company’s permit, according to documents.

The company’s response to the violations

In a court filing, the company including Czarkowski, alleged they took corrective action and wanted to work with Boulder officials to resolve any concerns. They claimed their correspondence went unanswered.

The company claims the city never worked with them and when their license was revoked there was no opportunity to respond or defend themselves against the allegations.

In court filings, the company stated Boulder officials usurped the state’s power to regulate marijuana dispensaries, and they alleged the penalty handed down by local officials was too harsh. Company officials claimed they lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to court documents.

But the district court ruled on March 23 that Boulder officials had the power to suspend and revoke the medical marijuana license. The courts found that Boulder provided due process protections that were required. Additionally, the courts determined the company had ample notice to respond to the city’s concerns prior to the city taking action and revoking the permit. The case was dismissed.

The Boston Globe article said that Czarkowski and his wife had sold the Boulder marijuana business two months after receiving the city’s license-revocation notice.

Advanced Grow Labs also is seeking a dispensary license in Connecticut under the name CT Wellness Center LLC. Those licenses have yet to be granted by the Consumer Protection Department.

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(6) Comments

posted by: art vandelay | March 6, 2014  8:18am

art vandelay

Malloy has an excellent record of picking winners. Jackson Labs was welcomed to Connecticut when Florida flatly refused them.  Now a Marijuana company with a dubious record.

posted by: Historian | March 6, 2014  9:30am

It would be better if Consumers Affairs spent it’s tax dollars on more mundane but critical issues affected the average Ct citizens.  Complaints regarding avaricious low income housing landlords and their corporations are routinely ignored or deprecated..

posted by: jim black | March 6, 2014  10:42am

Don’t forget that Malloy didn’t know anything about Keno.

posted by: Matt W. | March 6, 2014  11:59am

Matt W.

The state should step in and take this over.  That way they could unionize these people and ensure that everyone is qualified to make a safe intoxicant.?  Anyway, just imagine the possibilities of unionized drug dealers who funnel the proceeds into the state and the DNC!  Then just leave Keno in the budget and we can have ourselves a full on cartel! (Without the cigarettes of course).

posted by: NoNonsense2014 | March 6, 2014  1:37pm

“Due diligence” seems to be missing a lot from State decisions. Let’s not forget DECD’s decision to give a pile of money to Earl O’Garro from its Small Business Express program. It’s nice to know that the DCP Commissioner is “disturbed” by this turn of events with Advanced Grow Labs, but being “disturbed” after the fact is no substitute for real due diligence before the fact.

posted by: jenand | March 7, 2014  3:34pm

Why no grow clause in the law? And Is insurance going to sell it for a co-pay? Or are patients expected to have enough money to buy this out of pocket? How much $$ did the Pharm. industry pay to keep their claws in this? We already have the resources and the talent right here - yet we get taken for a ride from greedy people from Colorado, who keep a dirty house, apparently.