September 20, 2017
RE: Non-consideration of Vermont Green Grow’s Application for a Marijuana Dispensary License
Today, Vermont Green Grow received notification from Christopher Herrick, Deputy Commissioner of the Vermont Department of Public Safety (“DPS”), that Vermont Green Grow’s 250+ page Application for a Medical Marijuana Dispensary license would not be considered by the Department of Public Safety. Vermont Green Grow timely filed their Application on July 26, 2017 with the requisite $2,500.00 non-refundable filing fee. On or about August 9, 2017, Lindsey Wells, DPS Marijuana Program Administrator, advised Vermont Green Grow that their Application was procedurally deficient and would not be considered. At no time has Vermont Green Grow’s Application been deemed substantively deficient. The de minimis deficiencies cited by Ms. Wells included a claim the Application was not signed by Bernard Barriere on behalf of Vermont Green Grow – which was not true; a claim Vermont Green Grow did not provide Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws for the company – which would not legally be possible as Vermont Green Grow is a Limited Liability Company and therefore does not have Articles of Incorporation or By-Laws. The submitted Application did in fact have copies of a print-out from the Vermont Secretary of State’s Office confirming the existence and recognition in Vermont of Vermont Green Grow; a claim Vermont Green Grow did not provide evidence that the proposed dispensary would be legally situated in the Town of Bennington – Documentation, photographs, maps and satellite images, along with a letter from the Bennington Town Manager were in fact submitted; a claim Vermont Green Grow did not submit financial data to document specified expenses, including an acknowledgment that Vermont Green Grow would pay for the costs associated with registry identification cards – full financial statements were included in the Application, including a very specific line item for the requisite costs for registry identification cards; a claim that Vermont Green Grow did not provide a list of “all individuals or entities proposed that will have direct or indirect entitlements to the land or building(s) – Every individual associated with Vermont Green Grow were fully revealed as part of the Application submission.
Subsequent to receiving Ms. Wells’ notice of non-consideration, on August 23, 2017, Mr. Bernard Barriere and Mr. Jack Tomarchio of Vermont Green Grow met with Ms. Wells and Mr. Jeffrey Wallin, Director of the Vermont Crime Information Center. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss Ms. Wells’ notification and to show Ms. Wells the claimed deficiencies were not missing, but were, in fact, in the Application. As for the formation documents for Vermont Green Grow, Mr. Barriere brought a copy of Vermont Green Grow’s Operating Agreement to the meeting. An Operating Agreement is the standard business document for an LLC. Ms. Wells again stated Vermont Green Grow failed to submit Articles of Incorporation and/or By-Laws. She further refused to accept the Operating Agreement. During the course of the meeting, it became apparent that Ms. Wells and Mr. Wallin harbored a palpable degree of hostility towards Vermont Green Grow and Mr. Barriere. The result was the commencement of a 45-minute meeting that can best be described as tense, adversarial and hostile. It was likewise apparent that Ms. Wells had a bias against Vermont Green Grow and would not consider any reasonable discussion. At one point during the meeting Mr. Tomarchio commented “You guys aren’t agreeing with us on anything.” Mr. Wallin made the cavalier comment, “Why would we break the streak now.” Such behavior on the part of Ms. Wells and Mr. Wallin was inappropriate. The citizens of this State deserve better treatment by their public servants. Before leaving the meeting, Ms. Wells was asked that if she and Mr. Wallin thought that Vermont Green Grow’s Application was deficient they should let us at least have a short, reasonable period of time to cure the procedural deficiencies so that we could meet their requirements. Vermont Green Grow did not ask for, nor need, any additional time to add to or correct any information in the actual Application. Everything claimed to be deficient could have been resolved in a matter of minutes at the meeting. As there would not have been any substantive changes to Vermont Green Grow’s Application, there would not have been any possibility of prejudice to any of the other entities who timely filed their respective applications. This request was summarily denied without the slightest hesitation on the part of Ms. Wells.
The deficiencies cited were, at best, de minimis and subject to interpretation. Vermont Green Grow’s CEO, Mr. Barriere was born and raised in Vermont, and continues to be a Vermont resident. As a life-long Vermont citizen, and as a Vermont business entity, we know this is not the Vermont Way.
We are concerned that there have been questionable enforcement practices by individuals at the Department of Public Safety in regards to the Medical Marijuana Program here in Vermont. When the Rules Governing the Vermont Medical Marijuana Program were first enacted in 2012, four licenses were authorized. Although there were numerous applications submitted, Ms. Wells and DPS awarded half of the licenses to a single person, Shayne Lynn, effectively giving him a monopoly on medical marijuana in Vermont. The lack of competition has resulted in medical marijuana being sold in Vermont at some of the highest prices in the United States. Rather than put a halt to the Shayne Lynn monopoly, each year Ms. Wells approves the renewal of his licenses. Ms. Wells has admitted the annual renewal process is merely a “rubber-stamping” of the renewal applications. One of the four licenses was issued to Monique McHenry who operates Vermont Patient’s Alliance. Recently, her head grower and office manager were arrested on felony drug charges, including the illegal removal of material from the dispensary. This is in direct violation of the Rules Governing the Vermont Medical Marijuana Program, yet Vermont Patient’s Alliance’s renewal application was once again rubber-stamped by Ms. Wells. One of the license holders has been utilizing questionable growing practices, as is evidenced by the dispensary’s practice of storing grow medium in an unprotected area outside of the grow/dispensary facility. The grow medium is exposed to the weather and whatever animal may choose to use the medium as a toilet. This unhealthy practice is being overlooked by DPS, and yet again, their license renewal application is simply being rubber stamped by Ms. Wells. The products being dispensed to sick patients in Vermont are supposed to be medical marijuana, with an emphasis on the word medical. There is absolutely no quality assurance or quality control being implemented and it is dangerous to think what sick and needy patients are actually receiving.
Vermont Green Grow has strongly advocated for the patients in Vermont who have been denied access to quality medical marijuana at an affordable price, and who have been denied access to medical marijuana because they live in an underserved area of our State.
Through the advocacy efforts of Vermont Green Grow, which openly challenged the practices of the current license holders and the lack of oversight by DPS for the Medical Marijuana Program, Senate Bill 16 (S.16) was recently signed into law. S.16 expanded the allowable conditions for the use of medical marijuana and added an immediate fifth dispensary license, and an eventual sixth dispensary license, as well as laboratory testing requirements. However, we believe our advocacy efforts were an affront to the current license holders and to the Department of Public Safety.
We believe DPS has taken affirmative action to assure Vermont Green Grow would not be awarded a license. While we regret that we will not be awarded the dispensary license, we hope Ms. Wells and DPS will not similarly punish Bennington County and the award of the fifth license will go to an entity that will open a dispensary in Bennington County and provide much needed jobs to Bennington County.