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(Updated) State Approves Medical Marijuana Production For Simsbury Site

State announces four successful producer applicants.

Posted 11:40 a.m. Tuesday, Updated 12:05 a.m. Wednesday

With the state's approval of Curaleaf, LLC as one of four medical marijuana producers in Connecticut, company officials said the are looking forward to providing relief to patients and getting a Simsbury facility up and running in the next several months. 

"We feel honored to have been selected and also feel a great responsibility to qualifying patients to get our product on the shelves as soon as possible in order to provide them with the option of pure, high quality medical cannabis," said Farmington resident April Arrasate, co-founder and Chief Operational Officer for Curaleaf. "We are confident that we can implement our organic cultivation methods and state of the art extraction methods swiftly and efficiently such that we can have a wide array of pharmaceuticals, including capsules, concentrates, topicals, vaporization cartridges, sublingual wafers, and raw material available to patients by the summer." 

Tuesday morning Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein, joined by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman and other officials, announced that through a competitive process, four of 16 applicants had been chosen as the first-ever producers of medical marijuana to serve the needs of seriously ill patients in Connecticut. 

In addition to Curaleaf were:

•  Advanced Grow Labs, LLC — facility to be located in West Haven 

•  Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions, LLC -- facility to be located in Portland

• Theraplant, LLC -- facility to be located in Watertown

First Selectman Mary Glassman said the announcement of Curaleaf's approval was good economic news for the town. 

"We are grateful to the governor and the Consumer Protection committee for selecting Simsbury as one of four sites in Connecticut for the medical pharmaceutical facility," Glassman said. "The facility will reinvigorate an underutilized industry building and bring additional tax dollars to our community." 

By a 4-2 vote in December, the Simsbury Zoning Commission approved the use of 100 Grist Mill Road in Simsbury for Curaleaf's production facility.

During a public hearing portion of that meeting, Dwight H. Merriam of Robinson & Cole gave a power point presentation in which he talked about many aspects of the building. He talked about the state’s stringent security requirements inside and out, the plan for climb-resistant yet aesthetically pleasing fencing, 24-7 security the site’s natural screening and low visibility.

No one from the public spoke against the proposal at a public hearing but commissioner William J. Fiske strongly opposed the idea, saying marijuana is the most sought after illicit drug in the U.S. He also said security could break down and employees could succumb to temptation.

“This does not need to be part of Simsbury,” Fiske said at the meeting. 

Since then two residents Robert H. Kalechman and Joan Coe have decried the idea to the Board of Selectmen.

However, Curaleaf President Eileen Konieczny, a 20-year oncology nurse, board member of the American Cannabis Nurses Association and former executive director of the Connecticut Cannabis Business Alliance, spoke strongly about what she said are numerous benefits of the traditional medicine when she appeared before the Simsbury Zoning Commission in early October.

“When you see that medical cannabis can probably change the world, you don’t stop talking,” Konieczny she said at that past Simsbury Zoning Commission meeting. 

In a November Patch article, Arrasate shared more about the company’s philosophy.

Others in the company include Chief Executive Officer Robert Birnbaum of Greenwich and Compliance officer Joseph Stevens, founder of Greenleaf Compassion Center, the only operational medical marijuana alternative treatment center in New Jersey.

As required, each of the four businesses now must establish escrow arrangements in the amount of $2 million, and pay their annual license fee, at which time their operating license will be issued by the Department. Producers must be operational within 180 days of licensure.  

The Department’s Request for Applications announced that the award of three producer licenses was anticipated, but as noted the RFA the department had the option to award. 

During its evaluation, according to a submitted release, the Department took into account a variety of factors – including the applicants’ expectations of  initial and long-term patient demand, initial and phased expansion of  production capacities, production roll-out timetables and anticipated product mixes — and determined that patients would be better assured a reliable and steady source of pharmaceutical grade marijuana by licensing four producers. 

Selection of the growing operations is a major step in the implementation of Connecticut General Statutes Chapter 420f, which provides for the palliative use of marijuana for patients suffering from one of 11 specific debilitating illnesses, whose doctors believe that such treatment is appropriate. 

Since passage of the 2012 legislation, the Department has implemented an online patient, physician and caregiver registration system, sought and acquired passage of detailed regulations to implement the program’s operation, and launched the competitive selection process for the state’s medical marijuana production and dispensing system. 

Companies were chosen on a competitive basis after a detailed and thorough review of the applications submitted by 16 applicants hoping to be awarded these licenses.  The applications, each containing  700 to more than 1,000 pages, provided detailed information about applicants’ financial ability, relevant experience, location and site plan, and production, security, safety, business and marketing protocols. Applications also included any plans to enhance the working environment of employees, provide a compassionate need program, engage in or fund scientific research, give back to the community, prevent substance abuse and operate in environmentally beneficial ways.

With the producers now selected, the Department will continue its competitive selection process for the state’s first medical marijuana dispensary facility licenses. Between three and five of these licenses are expected to be awarded within the next two months.

CT News Junkie reports that 1,684 patients are certified to use medical marijuana. 

"We look forward to working with the town of Simsbury, the Department of Consumer Protection and the state of Connecticut to provide safe access to patients and ease some of the suffering associated with their qualifying ailments," said Arrasate, 1995 graduate of Farmington High School and former co-owner of The Flea Circus in Collinsville. 

J A January 28, 2014 at 01:40 PM
It boggles the mind... I understand that there is a place and a need in some cases where medical marijuana can ease the devastating pain of cancer and its treatment, but I don't understand how this, with the issues contained such as a need for greater police scrutiny, somehow covering the life balance with those who abuse the system for medical marijuana, etc., etc., get by, while the town sits on proposals from Big Y to recover what has become a blighted north end of Route 10. So, Simsbury becomes labeled as a town where you can grow weed, but not buy groceries from a larger retailer... Got it.. Makes perfect sense.. NOT
Mike Agogliati January 28, 2014 at 03:10 PM
Not to mention this place will be right down the road from the high school.
J A January 28, 2014 at 03:35 PM
I thought about that.. but this isn't like the legalized marijuana shops in Colorado for example.. and while I'm sure they'll be all kinds of jokes being made about it with regard to the high school'ers, I'm not as concerned as I would be if they were selling it "retail". I am concerned though that once it is in full operation, that it at least has the potential for being a target for crime, break ins, etc.. All things I'm sure they are going to plan for, but as the saying goes.. "the best laid plans .... "
John Lucker January 28, 2014 at 08:22 PM
@J A - "[can't] buy groceries from a larger retailer"? - within a few miles of the North End of Simsbury is a Geisslers in Granby, Stop and Shop in Granby, Stop and Shop in south Simsbury, Big Y in Avon, Shop Rite in Canton. Plus Kanes in Simsbury, Fitzgeralds in Simsbury, Fresh Market in Avon and a bunch of specialty food stores like the Meat Market in Avon, Blue Water in Avon, Valley Fish in East Granby -- I'm sure I'm missing some. It's not like Simsbury residents are wanting for places to buy food. So the real issue is not availability but the Zero Sum Game of groceries. The money spent at the new Big Y will be money not spent at all those other places. People will not buy more food just because the new Big Y is there. Which means less revenue for the other stores and the potential for business troubles elsewhere. Which could mean blight elsewhere. The grocery category is saturated in the Simsbury/Granby/Avon/Canton area. Of course the new Big Y could end up being the loser in all this too and end up like the Stop & Shop in west Bloomfield which is now some kind of dollar store. There will be winners and losers. My prediction is that not all will be winners. We shall see what the impact of the new Big Y is - time will tell.
J A January 28, 2014 at 10:14 PM
@John.. Perhaps I should have been more specific in my statement saying "large retailer in Simsbury" I'm also not putting Kane's into the same category, as I think their specialization in meats will still have a market and customer base. The point was, and you made it, just about every other large retail shop was NOT in the Simsbury tax base, and none quite so convenient as this will be.. But we can put all that aside as the north end of town needs something to perhaps kick start what has become somewhat desolate in spots. Clearly the grass growing between the cracks in the old Wagner Ford lot is not a part of the plan for beautification of the town. It's all well and good to put in all the niceties around town hall, but let's make it hard for businesses who want to come in to the north end.. heaven forbid we actually encourage it.. As it turns out, it looks like the final approvals have gone through and Big Y can proceed I believe, but again we make it FAR too hard for businesses to call Simsbury a home.. and by businesses I mean ones that can significantly help the tax base, especially with the loss of The Hartford.
Marcie January 29, 2014 at 10:40 AM
I wouldn't complain when at least Simsbury is trying to bring in businesses that will be able to PAY the taxes assessed against them.
J A January 29, 2014 at 11:59 AM
The issue Marcie is the lack of a supportive business atmosphere. Businesses face undo pressures to try and open in town vs. surrounding towns. I'm by no means advocating that we turn Route 10 into all the large construction in what used to be the old Windsor tobacco fields, but ask yourself, how many new and substantive tax base businesses have come to Simsbury vs. our neighboring towns. There is a compromise here.. we either become more welcoming through creating an atmosphere of growth instead of one where businesses are put through hoops, or face continuing budget issues and loss of services and potential harm to the education system many came to Simsbury specifically for. We need office space used in Powder Forest for types of jobs a business park there can support. While we can't remotely make up the loss of the Hartford, creating a viable and healthy business park there with active and thriving office space, as was designed, would go part of the way to help. Leaving major sections of town (again referring to the old Wagner property) looking the way it does, is not an inviting sight to a perspective business. Businesses want to come to a town because they see growth, not huge tracts of land left unused and decaying.
John Lucker January 29, 2014 at 12:51 PM
J A - I agree that Simsbury could do better in a reactive posture. But I inherently believe that is not the best approach. I think our town needs to be much better in a proactive posture - not being easier to do business with necessarily as a precursor for success (because then we are just reaching parity with other towns) but rather being proactive about the types of business we want in town and going out and finding them, attracting them, incenting them and then "closing the deal". I consider our economic development and planning process in town to be a huge disappointment. Our town does woefully little to proactively market for new business to come to us. And the town does next to nothing to bring new ideas and talent to the table to help brainstorm such ideas. The current effort to create an Economic Development Task Force is an example of the problem - it's composed of current elected and appointed officials from various boards and commissions and as an after thought they are considering appointing a few residents. And those residents will be way outnumbered by the political forces on the same group. So what they are creating is a group of people, the vast majority of which already have an official responsibility and voice and platform to bring ideas to the town and all of whom are politically affiliated as elected/appointed people and bring their personal and party agendas to the table. Yet, we are a town of vast intellectual resources and capacity and the town does so little to harness those talents. We have professional people from all backgrounds and areas of expertise who might be able to assist the town in ideating (and networking in the world) for economic growth. But rarely do we hear of opportunities for such people to openly participate in the process for the town. Heck, there isn't even a mandatory Public Audience at every single Planning, Zoning and Economic Development Commission meeting! So does the town really want to hear new ideas and through what forum might they be suggested, researched, explored, executed, and closed?
John Lucker January 29, 2014 at 01:06 PM
One other random thought which is something we all need to think about I think. We know The Hartford generates about $2M in taxes a year as I recall. And we know that that form of development is about as good as it might get for Simsbury from a net economic benefit perspective. So let's suppose we could bring more developments like The Hartford to town. How about supposing we could fill all the big available properties on Route 10 with more developments like The Hartford. I count about 6 such areas - 2 near CL&P, The Hartford and the field next to it, available space in Powder Forest, and the North End. Six. So that would generate approximately $12 million of tax revenue (not economic benefit per se but pure revenue). Let's not quibble about the inexact nature of my analysis here because it's probably directionally correct. So if we max out the town and build the corridor all out, the most we will ever get is about $12 million in new taxes (actually $10 million since The Hartford is already built). That's all there is. So while an extra $10 million in taxes would be awesome, it's not going to fundamentally solve our Town's problems. It's not going to flip the burden on homeowners to be a burden on business. It's not going to generate massively more money for Town investment or education, etc. So to me that means that our Town needs to be very thoughtful about what we do with our available land and what type of development goes in the open land. In my opinion, Big Y is not the best development for that open land nor is it even close to revenue maximizing for the town. It is in fact not very tax maximizing at all. A friend of mine who analyzes such things lives in Canton. He told me this about the Shoppes mall in Canton: "The Shoppes bring in roughly $1.3 million in property taxes every year, or about 3.1% of Canton' s overall budget. Our budget increases, on average, about 2% a year so we need to build the equivalent of the Shoppes at least every other year to keep pace." So Simsbury should think about this and what it means analogously to our town. Putting grocery stores and strip malls up, etc will not enhance our town, the tax base, the lifestyle, etc. We need proactive thinking, planning and execution and at some point we need to recognize that long ago our town went down a path that created a destiny for us. Think of it as a combination of the Butterfly Effect and rational constraints based on our geographic location. The time for Simsbury to be different than we are has probably come and gone. We need to work with what we have and do it thoughtfully and with reality and pragmatism in mind. We must recognize that massive property tax relief is just not going to happen anytime soon or likely at all. So given what we have to work with, what do we want our town to become with the developable space we have? Do we do it reactively or proactively?
J A January 29, 2014 at 02:04 PM
@John.. Very well stated in both posts. If there was a true effort underway to draw in businesses a significantly better approach should have and would have been in place. The Hartford leaving should not have come as a surprise. They've hinted for some time it could and would likely happen.. Yet when the time came, there was no backup plan, nothing substantive in the works that we could have, as a town, moved on. Your point of reactive vs. proactive is a case study in what happened with The Hartford. We invest dollars upon dollars on land trust items, yet do next to nothing on true economic development. Again, everything in balance. There's nothing wrong with Land Trust, to a point, as long as there is a solid, documented and executable plan to business development as well. As regards Big Y, it may (or may not) be the best overall business, but it is at least a start and one, I hope, that shows others that investing in Simsbury is a sound choice. I also agree with your assessment of the make up of the Task Force. Was there a nomination or selection process by skill set for the resident involvement, or was this once again a "who do we know that we've known for years that will want to serve". I certainly saw no call for a selection process, nor a mission statement to go along with said process. These are things people who are SERIOUS about economic development do.. the plan in advance, they develop contingencies (for events like The Hartford), they are progressive in thinking about smart town growth, not regressive to the point at times where it feels like we're in Sleepy Hollow or Brigadoon.
John Lucker February 18, 2014 at 08:56 PM
As I said in my comments above, many businesses are Zero Sum Games - like groceries. Here's a classic example of Zero Sum Game economics for groceries. After 74 years the Crown Market in West Hartford is shutting down. The owner says "strong competition from other stores in Bishops Corner, including Wal-Mart's Neighborhood Market, Whole Foods and Big Y, which also features an in-store kosher meat butcher and kosher deli department. He initiated a number of promotions, but special discounts and customer loyalty programs were not enough to keep the business going." http://touch.courant.com/#section/-1/article/p2p-79349916/

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