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Former medical marijuana executives charged

Company has ties to Vireo

PERTH — Two former executives of Minnesota Medical Solution, a subsidiary of Vireo Health in New York, which owns a medical marijuana facility at the Tryon Technology Park, were arrested Monday.

Minnesota and New York have both legalized medical marijuana programs, and parent company Vireo Health cultivates and sells the medication in both states. But shipping products across state lines still violates both state and federal laws.

Laura Bultman, the Minnesota firm’s former chief medical officer, and Ronald Owens, the former chief security officer, were charged by Minnesota law enforcement officials with allegedly shipping more than a half million dollars of marijuana oil to the Tryon plant.

A Vireo spokesman on Wednesday issued this statement to The Leader-Herald: “When we became aware of the possibility that one or more individuals may have acted in ways contrary to the laws of the state and to our own policies and procedures, we acted immediately to investigate the allegations, communicate with our regulators and take appropriate action.”

The company added: “We take seriously our legal obligations, our regulatory responsibilities and our own standards and procedures in this area. We will cooperate with the agencies investigating this situation even as we maintain our laser focus on providing patients, who suffer from life-threatening and debilitating diseases like cancer and ALS, with best-in-class medical cannabis products and compassionate care.”

The New York State Department of Health last June first acknowledged it was “actively investigating” allegations involving Vireo Health of New York.

According to an Associated Press story that appeared Monday, prosecutors in Minnesota filed felony charges against Bultman and Owens.

The complaint filed in Wright County District Court alleges the two officials, who no longer work for Minnesota Medical Solutions — the company’s Minnesota branch — collaborated in December 2015 to ship more than five kilograms of concentrated marijuana oil from Minnesota to New York. The firm faced a product shortfall ahead of New York state’s January 2016 start to legal sales.

Bultman and Owens each face felony charges that carry fines of up to $3,000 and up to a year in jail. A third Minnesota Medical Solutions executive was named in the complaint, but wasn’t charged.

Charges allege Bultman and Owens drove the marijuana oil — valued at $500,000 or more — to New York in an armored truck and then entered faulty information in the database that tracks shipments, suggesting the oil was taken to a waste facility to be destroyed.

Investigators said they obtained text messages in which Bultman repeatedly referred to a specific kind of oil as “Christmas red.”

An early December 2015 email from a New York facility employee obtained by investigators read: “Laura is here today with Christmas presents from MN.”

Minnesota Medical Solutions previously underwent a surprise inspection conducted at its facilities in Minnesota and Otsego in New York. This was followed by an inspection of the Perth facility by the New York State Department of Health.

When the investigation was first made public in June, the company said allegations are unfounded and were made by a disgruntled former employee in Minnesota. Claims from an affidavit by ex-employee fired in April alleged Vireo Health, which employs about 25 people at Tryon, illegally transported marijuana oil into New York state.

Vireo Health of New York’s 208,000-square-foot facility is the only tenant of the Tryon park and began selling its state-licensed medical marijuana at the start of 2016. It is one of five companies issued licenses in New York to manufacture and sell medical marijuana by the state Department of Health. The state has allowed those companies to operate 20 authorized dispensaries. Vireo controls four of the dispensaries, located in Queens, Albany, Broome and Westchester counties.

The initial DOH statement regarding the probe indicated New York state was communicating directly with the Minnesota Department of Health and the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.

Bultman and Owens were scheduled for their first court appearances in Minnesota later this month.

Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at manich@leaderherald.com.

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