Wellness Connection saga continues

Discussion in 'Maine Patients' started by tet1953, Mar 26, 2013.

  1.  
    tet1953

    tet1953 Well-Known Member

    Here's the link: http://www.pressherald.com/news/Sta...sed-pesticides-violated-rules-.html?pagenum=2

    I really like the part where the state says it knows they used illegal pesticides but will allow them to sell the meds anyway.

    State: Marijuana supplier used pesticides, violated rulesBy Michael Shepherd [email protected]
    State House Bureau

    AUGUSTA — A state investigation of Maine's largest medical marijuana dispensary group has revealed "a laundry list" of violations of state law and program rules, including pesticide use on marijuana plants, the Department of Health and Human Services said Monday.

    Wellness Connection of Maine also lacked proper security and sold an illegal marijuana derivative, according to findings from the investigation, released Monday.
    The group will be allowed to continue operating its four dispensaries and sell the marijuana that was treated with pesticides, even though a state official said he doesn't know whether it could harm patients.
    The DHHS said Wellness Connection of Maine, which runs dispensaries in Portland, Hallowell, Thomaston and Brewer serving about 2,400 patients, committed 20 rule violations in its cultivation facility in Auburn and other facilities.
    Through the second half of last year and all of this year, nine types of pesticides were used on medical marijuana dispensed by Wellness Connection, said Kenneth Albert, director of the DHHS Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services. Pesticides also were found in baker's mix and tinctures used by patients, and bugs were found near marijuana that was to be packaged for sales.
    To keep operating, the group had to sign a consent agreement with DHHS, Albert said. According to the agreement, the group must stop using pesticides, provide weekly status updates to the state and get a license for a working kitchen, along with other conditions.
    He said the state will allow marijuana on the shelves at Wellness Connection's dispensaries to be sold, even if it is tainted with pesticides.
    Every patient will be handed or mailed a notice describing the nine pesticides until the state is confident the marijuana being sold is pesticide-free, Albert said.
    "What was important for us was to allow patients to make that choice for themselves, and in doing that we will be monitoring the dispensaries," he said.
    Maine's medical marijuana program doesn't allow for pesticides to be applied to the marijuana. Albert said Wellness Connection used general-use pesticides, which are used in other areas of agriculture.
    Although many of the pesticides -- such as one with sesame oil as its main active ingredient -- appear to be organic, program rules don't distinguish between organic and non-organic pesticides, Albert said.
    He said he doesn't know whether patients could be harmed by the pesticides -- only that he can't assure patients which of the nine pesticides were used to treat their strain of marijuana.
    Albert said one employee's tip to a state hotline started the investigation. While the DHHS was investigating, he said, it received 22 more tips from employees.
    A state document that outlines the findings says an employee "admitted to applying pesticides, at the direction of senior leaders, over the last several months." Later, several employees indicated that pesticides had been used, the document says.
    On March 4, the first day of the investigation, Wellness Connection Executive Director Becky DeKeuster was interviewed about the possibility of pesticide use, Albert said.
    The state document says DeKeuster "indicated staff has voiced concern about the use of pesticides, and that patients are not being made aware of such use on their medicine."
    But in an interview with the Portland Press Herald on March 8, DeKeuster called the state's investigation "a comprehensive regulatory inspection" and said she wasn't aware of any cultivation rule violations.
    A statement posted on the group's website and Facebook page on March 9 said, "At this time, we are using only mechanical and environmental methods of contaminant abatement. We will continue to communicate with our patients about the quality and safety of their medicine and look forward to receiving the inspection report" from the DHHS.
    DeKeuster didn't respond to a message left on her cellphone Monday evening.
    Paul McCarrier, a lobbyist for Medical Marijuana Caregivers of Maine, said, "It's really a tragedy for the patients."
    He said the findings show that Wellness Connection's upper management was "encouraging workers to be deceitful" to "people who look to them to have a safe, clean medicine."
    The state also cited Wellness Connection of Maine for its "security, governance, inventory control and disposal of unused products."
    For example, employees lacked the necessary registration to work around marijuana; plumbing and electrical contractors were allowed to work near the plants; and two ounces of marijuana from the dispensary in Hallowell went unaccounted for in a check by the DHHS.
    Wellness Connection dispensaries also were selling "kief" -- resin that comes from cannabis and can accumulate in containers or be shaken or sifted from dried buds, the state said. Albert said program rules have long been interpreted to prohibit sales of kief, which produces a high concentration of psychoactive ingredients.
    McCarrier said that if Wellness Connection was producing kief, it may have been removing it from plants it would sell -- effectively watering down the marijuana's medicinal quality to boost profits.
    The state also cited the group for a managerial conflict of interest, prohibited in dispensaries by state law. It says Patricia Rosi-Santucci was hired as the group's vice president of marketing in September 2012, while she was a member of the group's board of directors. Documents say she's now the group's chief operating officer.
    The state didn't learn of her resignation from the board until this month, and Albert said that when she assumed her executive role, she was one of only three board members, which was an "inherent conflict."
    Albert said Rosi-Santucci is married to Jacques Santucci, a Portland-based business consultant who has long been linked to Wellness Connection of Maine.
    The state document says "Jacques S." has been serving as acting chief financial officer, but he doesn't have the necessary identification card to do so.
    Jacques Santucci didn't return a call seeking comment Monday evening.
    Albert said that in assigning responsibility for violations, "the buck stops with the board of directors," which is ultimately in charge of the group.
    Despite the violations, he said he's confident that Wellness Connection of Maine can rebound and grow marijuana without pesticides.
    "If the commissioner or I were uncomfortable with their ability to come into compliance and produce medicine at the rate of production they need, we would be having a very different discussion with Wellness Connection today," he said.
    McCarrier said he wouldn't speculate on the violations' effect on the dispensaries' business, but the group will have to atone to keep patients' trust.
    "I'm trying to imagine how they can try to make it up to their patients or the general community," McCarrier said. "It's tough to think of what that will take to make people have trust in them again."
    Michael Shepherd can be reached at 370-7652 or at:
    [email protected]
    Twitter: @mikeshepherdme

  2.  
    tet1953

    tet1953 Well-Known Member

    There are also links to the consent agreement where Wellness Connection agrees to be good from now on, and a notice sent out to patients.

    Consent agreement:
    http://media.kjonline.com/documents/Consent Agreement Wellness Connection.pdf

    Patient notice:
    http://media.kjonline.com/documents/Patient notification.pdf

    I notice Forbid is on the list of products found, though they claim that they didn't use it. That's a bad one. I know, because I have some. I never used it though, after learning more about it. Took care of my problem more safely.
  3.  
    NoSwagBag

    NoSwagBag Active Member

    As for their kief, i assume this comes from tumbling the trim, not the bud they sell.
    So that "mighty wash" strain i picked up last week was named correctly!:finger:
  4.  
    tet1953

    tet1953 Well-Known Member

    LOL seriously?
  5.  
    budwich

    budwich Active Member

    They shake the bud for kief before its sold
  6.  
    tet1953

    tet1953 Well-Known Member

    Greedy bastards. Like they aren't already gouging the patients they serve.
  7.  
    budwich

    budwich Active Member

    Time for us caregivers to step it up..can't see how they can compete if we get quality product out there
  8.  
    NoSwagBag

    NoSwagBag Active Member

    No. I was just so disappointed in their prices when i visited the Portland dispensary, I'll take any chance i get for a sucker punch! Btw, i didn't buy a single thing...
  9.  
    mdanforth

    mdanforth Active Member

    The inventory control problem would arise from product that is being purchased from outside sources.....I love how the board has no control and has unqualified members, we took a beating on our score for that and we had a pretty impressive group of professional people on our board.....
  10.  
    NoSwagBag

    NoSwagBag Active Member

    They are not allowed to purchase product from outside source are they?? I thought everything had to be grown on site.
  11.  
    tet1953

    tet1953 Well-Known Member

    You are correct. They are supposed to grow all that they sell. I for one do not believe that is the case, but I suspect there isn't much oversight. Maybe now there will be a little more scrutiny, but I doubt it.
  12.  
    mdanforth

    mdanforth Active Member

    other than the dispensary in Frenchville( to my knowledge), all the dips buy outside product....
  13.  
    jujubee

    jujubee Active Member

    Lol. Then I am pretty sure they all do.
  14.  
    NoSwagBag

    NoSwagBag Active Member

    What's so different about Frenchville? :shock:
  15.  
    KingDankBerry

    KingDankBerry Member

    You're exactly right. We need to stop WCM and others from becoming the 'pot-walmart' of our state! Honestly, the first thing I thought when I saw that they had kief for sale at the Hallowell location was, "that's illegal to sell here." Sure enough, lol.
  16.  
    NoSwagBag

    NoSwagBag Active Member

    This whole bunch of ignorance with wcm has to have had a negative impact on their customer base. Have any of you caregivers picked up former wcm patients? Any former patients on this site going to grow their own now?
  17.  
    Maine Brookies

    Maine Brookies Active Member

    The legality of medical kief is unclear. Extraction is explicitly legal for edibles. Nothing in the law says that extraction must be done with butter/oil. Under most readings, extraction of kief in a commercial kitchen for cooking purposes should not be problematic. Until a judge establishes a precedent, kief is in a gray area - which is really stupid.
  18.  
    jujubee

    jujubee Active Member

    Kief happens. It's not extracted, it is "prepared". Lol. I'm not even sure why DHHS has the interpretation of the law that they do. Probably because they want it to be illegal. So they say it is.

    In my reading of the law, kief falls under prepared marijuana. It contains nothing other than marijuana. The law clearly states preparations of marijuana are allowed, and uses the language "not limited to". So I am pretty sure it doesn't even need to be for cooking.

    14. Prepared marijuana. "Prepared marijuana" means the dried leaves and flowers of the marijuana plant that require no further processing and any mixture or preparation of those dried leaves and flowers, including but not limited to tinctures, ointments and other preparations, but does not include the seeds, stalks, leaves that are disposed of and not dried for use and roots of the plant and does not include the ingredients, other than marijuana, in tinctures, ointments or other preparations that include marijuana as an ingredient or food or drink prepared with marijuana as an ingredient for human consumption.
    [ 2011, c. 407, Pt. B, ยง14 (AMD) .]


    A couple things I noticed in this quote. Albert mentions an interpretation, and he only mentions the sale of kief.
  19.  
    Maine Brookies

    Maine Brookies Active Member

    DHHS has an in-house lawyer. His interpretation of the relevant statutes is that kief is not legal for patients under Maine's current laws. Other lawyers have looked at the same statutes and do not agree with the State's interpretation, assuming certain conditions are met. Until a judge gets a medical kief case, and makes a decision, thereby setting a precedent, or the law is amended to make extracts explicitly legal, kief is in a legal gray area.

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