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Dave Zajac Record-Journal
500 S. Broad St. in Meriden, September 27, 2013. A group is proposing a medical marijuana manufacturing firm in the former INSILCO building. The group has until the end of the week to submit an application to the state, | Dave Zajac / Record-Journal

Group eyes city site for medical pot operations

MERIDEN — A group of investors plans to submit an application this week to open a medical marijuana manufacturing operation on South Broad Street.

Central Connecticut Health Ventures confirmed with city officials that it plans to apply for a license that would lead to opening a manufacturing facility. The company, which registered with the secretary of the state on Oct. 30, includes David Smith, a Wallingford businessman; Adam Stern, a Cheshire resident; Jerry Farrell Jr., a Wallingford lawyer, former town councilor and former state Department of Consumer Protection commissioner. Norton Arbelaez and John Kocer, who own a marijuana manufacturing firm in Colorado known as River Rock, are also involved.

“It’s something that they came in to discuss late last week,” said City Manager Lawrence J. Kenzior. “They have identified a property in Meriden and (City Planner) Dominick Caruso is reviewing that to see if that zone for the property allows that sort of use.”

Smith, who is involved in hotel and conference center management, declined to talk in detail until the application is submitted Friday. He did, however, note that he has interest “both from a therapeutic and business perspective.”

The property, at 500 S. Broad St., is the former home of the International Silver Co. The 400,000-square-foot building, zoned for light industrial purposes, houses an electronics recycling firm that recently announced it is downsizing its operation, a mortgage foreclosure servicing company, and Fosdick Fulfillment Corp. Fosdick recently relocated much of its operation to Berlin. Master’s Manna, a nonprofit agency that provides food and other services to the needy, recently received Zoning Board of Appeals approval to move into the building and plans to occupy nearly 30,000 square feet.

Central Connecticut Health Ventures is proposing an initial use of 50,000 square feet, which could expand to 300,000. The company anticipates beginning with 50 workers and expanding to “several hundred,” according to a fact sheet submitted to Kendzior and other city officials. The company is “committed to filling at least 65 percent of our workforce with Meriden residents.”

State legislation passed in May allows Connecticut to have between three and 10 marijuana producers, which will be the only groups authorized to manufacture marijuana. Three to five dispensary applications will be chosen, which will be the only firms allowed to sell marijuana. Applications are due Friday. Only one had been submitted for marijuana production by Tuesday and there were none for dispensaries.

Under the new law, marijuana can be prescribed to treat cancer, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, Crohn’s disease, post-traumatic stress disorder and other medical conditions.

Applicants have only had since September to begin the process, following the necessary approval by the legislature’s Regulation Review Committee. The rules were created by the Department of Consumer Protection, which also regulates the medical marijuana program.

The process includes a $25,000 application fee, which is not refundable. There is an additional $75,000 licensing fee and producers must have $2 million in an escrow account.

“It is our hope to be able to make our selections for both producer and dispensary facility licenses by around the first of the year,” Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said earlier this year.

The group proposing the Meriden location expressed confidence in their application.

“We believe that we will present the most qualified application to receive one of the three licenses under consideration,” the group wrote in its filing with the city. “Our manufacturing partner, River Rock of Denver, Colorado is recognized as the national leader in this industry, specifically focused on medically effective strains of marijuana ...”

Farrell’s responsibilities will include ensuring “that the operation exceeds all regulatory standards.” The other managers “are all responsible and successful businesspeople,” the group wrote.

The state Code of Ethics includes a “revolving door” policy that prohibits former state employees from representing companies for compensation before their former state agencies for a period of one year. Farrell served as Consumer Protection commissioner from 2006 to 2011.

When licensed, medical marijuana growing operations will be required to donate 5 percent of their annual returns to community-based and charitable operations.

So far, 1,309 patients have been certified to receive medical marijuana in the state..

Other communities where medical marijuana producers are seeking licenses include Middletown, West Haven, Bridgeport, Watertown and Newington.

Caruso said he was comparing the city’s zoning regulations with the state statute Tuesday to make sure the production of medical marijuana is an allowed use.

“It seems like it’s more of a manufacturing production situation,” Caruso said, comparing it to a medical manufacturing company like Pfizer. “The regulations show that it is pretty well-governed by the state under the statutes. Everything has to be indoors, with tight security.” 203-317-2266 Twitter: @DanBrechlinRJ

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