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Philly 420: Medical cannabis grower with Pa. permit faces investigations in other states

Why did Pennsylvania give one of its coveted, lucrative medical marijuana permits to a company known to be facing revocation, prosecution, and investigation in three other states?

One of the 12 winners of Pennsylvania's medical cannabis growing/processing permits has had its license revoked in Maryland, former employees facing criminal charges in Minnesota, and now is being investigated by New York's Department of Health for alleged violations of that state's regulations.

Pennsylvania Medical Solutions is part of a business group that also operates under various formulations of the name Vireo Health. The group has separate medical cannabis permits in New York and Minnesota.

In a case that made international headlines, Vireo employees allegedly drove 12 pounds of cannabis oil from Minnesota to New York, then passed it off into the NY cannabis program to meet requirements for the initial operating deadline.

On the surface it would seem that Vireo  broke every rule in the book. Not only could the company lose its permits in both of those states, but employees could face federal prosecution for interstate transport and distribution.

For now, the two employees who took the hash oil on the road trip are the only ones facing criminal charges, in Minnesota.

When Vireo's involvement became known, Pennsylvania Medical Solutions spokesman Andrew Mangini issued a statement:

"While we're aware of allegations against two former employees of an affiliate, those individuals have never had a role in our application or in the management of PAMS. It's also important to note that our Minnesota affiliate and our parent company Vireo Health have not been accused of any wrongdoing in connection with those allegations."

The Minnesota Department of Health declined to comment on Vireo. However, that state is in the process of re-registering its only two cannabis producers, and it's hard to imagine that the interstate allegations won't factor into that decision. The state is expected to announce the renewals in August.  and also uncovered documents showing that Maryland revoked the dispensary permit for Vireo's affiliate.

The New York Department of Health issued this statement today when asked about Vireo and the alleged hash oil road trip:

"The Department's investigation is ongoing.  More information more will be available when the probe is complete."

Time to ask some serious questions about Pennsylvania's Department of Health.

  1. How did this company manage to beat out the competition?

  2. Now that all of this information has come to light, will PADOH review this company's permit?

  3. What's the point of making all these onerous rules and regulations if the companies that get the exclusive cannabis permits never plan to follow them anyway?

This is the first test of how the Pennsylvania Health Department and state Legislature will deal with the hands-on side of regulating cannabis. It is their job to manage the medical access  program and the permitted companies for the best interest of patients.

The selection of a Vireo Health affiliate to grow and process medical cannabis in Pennsylvania has cast a serious shadow over the integrity of the program even before it has started.