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Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein (Hugh McQuaid Photo)

The state will allow four companies to grow marijuana at facilities in West Haven, Portland, Simsbury, and Watertown. The facilities will produce the cannabis to be sold to patients certified to use medical marijuana.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Consumer Protection Commissioner William Rubenstein made the announcement Tuesday at a West Haven warehouse which will be converted into a growing facility by Advanced Grow Labs LLC. It’s one of the four companies that the Consumer Protection Department selected out of 16 applicants.

The other three companies include Connecticut Pharmaceutical Solutions, which has been approved to establish a facility in Portland, Curaleaf, to be located in Simsbury, and Theraplant, which will establish the Watertown facility.

Rubenstein said the four companies were chosen on a competitive basis after a review of the 16 applications, some of which were more than 1,000 pages in length. In order to submit an application, the companies had to pay a $25,000 fee.

“We have selected four producers that embrace the clear vision of a pharmaceutical model and who will create state-of-the-art production facilities capable of ensuring that pharmaceutical-grade marijuana is available to seriously ill patients whose doctors believe this marijuana will be beneficial to them,” Rubenstein said.

Since its passage in 2012, Connecticut’s medical marijuana program has been touted as one of the most tightly regulated programs of its kind. Patients with specific debilitating conditions must receive written certification from a physician and register with the Department of Consumer Protection. Once certified, those patients will be able to obtain marijuana from one of several licensed dispensaries around the state.

So far, 1,684 patients have been certified by the department to use marijuana. The Consumer Protection Department has not yet issued licenses for the dispensaries. Rubenstein said he expects to issue around five licenses over the next two months. He also expects medical marijuana to be on the shelves in the dispensaries and available to patients by this summer.

Malloy said the program will benefit residents who have illnesses like cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, epilepsy, and PTSD. 

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Gov. Malloy, Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman, and Rep. Stephen Dargan (Hugh McQuaid Photo)

“These citizens deserve compassion, not arrest. They deserve understanding and relief, not fines and a criminal record. And they deserve treatment that is safe,” he said. “. . . This new law is about giving people some piece of mind and some comfort. We’re talking about people who are going through one of the most stressful periods of their lives. Let’s remove the burden of making them feel like criminals.”

The four new growing facilities are also expected to create a total of around 100 jobs in their first year of operation.

Ethan Ruby, president of Theraplant, said he believed the burgeoning medical marijuana industry will benefit the state as a whole.

“I think we can show that this industry, done correctly, can benefit a lot of people. Whether you are for medical marijuana and you use it or not. Done responsibly, I think this is going to benefit the entire state,” he said.

Ruby said he has used medical marijuana on and off since a spinal cord injury 12 years ago left him in constant pain and often using a wheelchair. He said he moved his family from New York City to Colorado to live in a state that allowed him to use marijuana.

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David Lipton (Hugh McQuaid Photo)

Rubenstein said one of the factors his department evaluated when choosing applicants was their plans to keep their facilities secure. David Lipton, CEO of Advance Grow Labs, said he was confident that the West Haven warehouse where Tuesday’s press conference took place would be protected once its fully renovated.

“We have a double security system, every measure has been taken. It’s really the Fort Knox here, it’s very secure,” he said.

The four companies also have “robust” plans for “compassionate need programs” designed to help some indigent patients who cannot afford medical marijuana, Rubenstein said.

Connecticut’s medical marijuana law does not require any insurance companies to reimburse patients for marijuana.

“As these programs evolve and as insurers are more comfortable with this product and the way it’s produced and the way patients are using it—that’s a dialogue for the private sector” to have, he said.

Malloy said medical marijuana is still a new industry but he expects insurers will eventually cover marijuana.

“We are, in some senses, here blazing a trail what we intend to be a highly-regulated product offering, which I think will set a national standard,” he said. “… I think what you’re going to see is the country move rapidly to understanding the medical benefits of marijuana in limited conditions. I predict it will be a reimbursable expense in the not-too-distant future.”