27 April 2017


And here’s some of the detail on the case

These are the drastically different stories behind a high-profile Minnesota legal battle involving Vireo Health, the parent company of the medical marijuana dispensary in downtown White Plains.

Prosecutors have accused Dr. Laura Bultman and Ronald Owens, the company’s former chief medical officer and security officer, of smuggling the drugs 1,200 miles to rescue Vireo from missing a deadline to open up shop in New York in 2016.

On the other side, Paul Engh, the attorney for Bultman, has disputed that Minnesota’s marijuana law bans shipping the drug across state borders, The Journal News/lohud has learned from court documents, and shifted focus onto why medical marijuana remains illegal under federal law despite being allowed in 28 states.

VIREO HEALTH: Marijuana smuggling scandal

Engh’s stance is detailed in a 12-page report urging a court to toss the felony drug charges against Bultman. It boils down to one question: How is it illegal for a licensed company’s officer to provide a drug to patients as defined by state law?

“We believe the law is with us and are hopeful that the court agrees,” Engh said, addressing the court documents in response to an inquiry by The Journal News/lohud.

Other defense arguments in Engh’s filing touch on everything from a company’s definition as a person under Citizens United, the Supreme Court decision that gave corporations protected rights, to a lack of clarity in Minnesota’s marijuana law.

“Any ambiguity as to the law’s language and its application is to be resolved in Dr. Bultman’s favor,” Engh wrote in court documents.

Still, the Vireo case has underscored why federal lawmakers’ idleness and a patchwork approach to state marijuana laws have muddled efforts to treat thousands of patients with serious illnesses, such as cancer and epilepsy.

Nick Zerwas, a state representative in Minnesota, described the Vireo scandal as a flaw in that state’s law.

“When this (law) was moved through several years ago, there was a lot of discussion about the methods of delivery and how many dispensaries,” he said, “but not nearly enough discussion on insufficient legal leverages necessary to regulate and investigate and hold accountable this industry.”

Zerwas, who voted to legalize marijuana sales in 2014, has pushed new legislation seeking to tighten the law in the wake of the Vireo case.

The looming threat of the U.S. Justice Department closing down Minnesota’s marijuana program also influenced Zerwas’ reform push.

“It’s incumbent upon us to act swiftly and signify that the state of Minnesota can handle this,” Zerwas said.

Vireo Health executives have said little about the situation. Andrew Mangini, a company spokesman, noted medical marijuana sales continue in New York, including a recent launch of a home delivery service to eligible patients in New York City.

“We take our legal obligations and regulatory responsibilities in this area very seriously,” he said. “And will cooperate with the relevant agencies while maintaining our focus on patients who suffer from life-threatening and debilitating diseases like cancer and ALS, and who deserve best-in-class medical cannabis products and compassionate care.”

While federal authorities at the Justice Department would not say if they are investigating the Vireo case, a Drug Enforcement Administration spokeswoman Barbara Carreno spoke to its prior hands-off approach as state marijuana laws piled up since 2013.

Full report at http://www.lohud.com/story/news/investigations/2017/04/26/vireo-health-marijuana-laws/100751722/

Vireo Health http://vireohealth.com/