Shared from the 12/11/2015 Connecticut Post eEdition

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Good marks for pot providers

Bridgeport area, Danbury companies rated well in new report

Picture
Brian A. Pounds / File photo

Packaged medical marijuana.

Cannabiz grades

Growers

Advanced Grow Labs, West Haven — A

Theraplant, Watertown — A

CT Pharmaceutical Solutions, Portland — B

Curaleaf, Simsbury — B

Dispensaries Business — Marketing

The Healing Corner, Bristol

— A-A

Arrow Alerternative Care, Hartford —A-A

Compassionate Care of Connecticut, Bethel — B-B

Prime Wellness of CT, South Windsor — B-C

Thames Valley Alternative Relief, Uncasville — C-C

Bluepoint Wellness CT, Branford — C-D

Source: Cannabiz Media’s “Tracking the Connecticut Licensed Marijuana Economy, 2015”

A startup research company focused on the marijuana industry has published an assessment of Connecticut’s medical-cannabis producers and dispensaries, giving high ratings to Danbury and Bridgeport-area operations.

But Jonathan Harris, commissioner of the state Department of Consumer Protection, which administers the state’s landmark medical-marijuana program, said the rating criteria have very little, if anything, to do with the three-year-old program. Harris said Thursday there are strict marketing and operations rules to which the four growers and six pharmacylike dispensaries are adhering as more patients join the program.

The research firm, Cannabiz Media, gives its highest grades for growers to the West Haven-based Advanced Grow Labs, and Theraplant of Watertown, receiving “A” for their business operations, based on the number of employees and products available.

Compassionate Care of Connecticut, the Bethel dispensary, is rated third among the six pharmacist-led operations, based on publicly available business and marketing information, including its social media presence.

Ed Keating, a co-founder of Cannabiz, said dispensaries vary widely in their social media footprints.

“Virtually all have websites,” he said in an interview. “We looked at Face-book and Twitter to see how they use them and how active the firms were with these tools.”

But the owner of Compassionate Care, Angela DAmico, says that state regulations restrict advertising and social media. She also questioned Cannabiz Media’s criteria in what the new company says will be a series of state ratings from around the country.

“I don’t think it’s very fair,” DAmico said in a phone interview Thursday. “We don’t have full liberty to market our medicine due to the strict guidelines of the regulations. We are only allowed to say certain things allowed by the state.”

The Cannabiz report found that Compassionate Care has the most employees of any dispensary, with

19. It had the second-most number of social media followers among the dispensaries. It was given two “B” ratings.

“What we’re doing and who we’re helping, it’s really about the patients,” DAmico said.

David Lipton, managing director of Advanced Grow Labs, said this week that his “A” ranking was flattering.

“We’re just working hard every day to help patients,” Lipton said. “We’re pleased to have such a high rating and glad to be appreciated.”

Cannabiz found that Advanced Grow Labs has 27 employees and 166 licensed products, from baked goods to extracts, in addition to traditional dried marijuana flowers of various strains and chemical profiles.

“Their number of products and the fact that they managed to produce so many products with few employees factored into the rubric,” the report said. “Their solid state score and effective embrace of social media helped them to reach the top tier.”

Theraplant has 49 employees and 148 licensed products.

Cannabiz Media is owned by Larry Schwartz, of Guilford, and Edward Keating, of Killingworth. They are listed with the Office of the Secretary of the State as DNB Media LLC, and made their initial filing in October, with Schwartz’s home address as headquarters.

Keating, in an interview this week, said he and Schwartz have backgrounds in business and market research.

“We saw this as an interesting opportunity,” said Keating, 51. “Connecticut makes a lot of government information available. Nobody was taking this down to the license level. No one has dug down into the ownership and financing.”

Cannabiz’s plans include rating other states, starting with Maine’s medical-marijuana industry. The company will offer subscriptions to its website, aimed at providing competitive and sales intelligence at a time when the marijuana industry, both recreational and medical, is still nascent.

“Some of these companies are starting to go across state lines,” Keating said.

Harris said Thursday that there are 7,572 patients enrolled in the program, which the General Assembly based on a pharmaceutical model. He said Cannabiz is perfectly welcome to analyze the industry, but that the analysis has little to do with his office beyond using public information.

“I took a look at the report as a regulator,” Harris said. “It’s a business and they’re trying to make money. We’re going to continue to allow the program to grow.” kdixon@ctpost.com

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