Archive for the ‘David Lipton’ Category

Connecticut Recruiting Medical Marijuana Doctors

July 11th, 2015

State trying to recruit more medical marijuana doctors

By Ken Dixon
Connecticut Post
June 21, 2015 | PDF

With only a small fraction of the state’s doctors participating in Connecticut’s medical marijuana program, the agency that’s running it has begun a public-service blitz.

medical marijuana strains at Advanced Grow Labs in West Haven, Conn.

Photo: Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Connecticut Media Head production manager Dain Colandro takes cutting of new medical marijuana strains at Advanced Grow Labs in West Haven, Conn. on Wednesday, June 10, 2015.

The goal is to break through the stigma and lack of information that seems to be holding doctors back from registering, which they need to do to be able to prescribe the drug.

The state is reaching out to the 7,000 doctors in the Connecticut State Medical Society, with radio and print ads highlighting the medical benefits of marijuana, and showing that edibles and oils are steadily taking the place of smoking the plant’s flowers.

With only 222 doctors participating, the program is still double the size it was last October, when the first of the state’s six dispensaries began to supply marijuana from the four producers. It’s a sign of steady progress, said Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner Jonathan Harris.

“It will be interesting to see what our outreach efforts to the physicians are,” Harris said. “It’s a private sector model and it should be driven by the businesses, patients and doctors on the ground. It’s a unique position as a regulator to clear up the misinformation, tear down some of the barriers and give people some comfort that they’re not going to get into any kind of trouble if they participate.”

The radio spots are appearing on Hartford-area public radio.

Harris has been making speaking appearances throughout the state to get the word out on the 2012 law. “We want to make people better-informed when and how to participate.”

Fear of prosecution

Ken Ferrucci, senior vice president of policy and governmental affairs for the Connecticut State Medical Society, admits the organization has been cautious and didn’t have an official reaction to the outreach by the Department of Consumer Protection.

“We’ve been consistent in our position,” he said. “We did not support the bill originally and once it passed and became statute, we wanted to make certain physicians were free to participate without prosecution. The longer the program is in existence, the more willing physicians will participate, providing there is no legal action or enforcement. We have been supportive of education opportunities when we have been asked to provide medical information. We have circulated and do not try to prevent anyone from being educated on whether or not want to certify patients for the program.”

Medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law, but the U.S. Justice Department has said it will not prosecute those who are complying with the laws in their state.

Harris said the longer the federal government leaves the medical-marijuana program alone, the more patients and doctors will feel comfortable enough to join. In the 2012 legislation, when the Connecticut General Assembly agreed to change marijuana’s status from a dangerous Schedule I drug, with no medical benefits, to Schedule II, it challenged federal policy.

Expanding access

The agency plans for as many as three more dispensaries, particularly in lower Fairfield County and New Haven County, where half the state’s medical cannabis patients live. There are no dispensaries in New Haven County and the only one in Fairfield County is in Bethel, an hour-long drive from Greenwich.

A regional organization of pro-marijuana physicians called Canna Care Docs has opened an office in Hartford, with plans, according to its website, to open clinics Fairfield County and between New Haven and New London along Interstate 95.

“Depending on what the feds ultimately do, then you’ll have the lid totally take off,” Harris said, who’s optimistic about further growth. “It’s a medical model and we’re hearing more on the ground on the innovations in dose-able forms.”

David Lipton, the founder and CEO of Advanced Grow Labs in West Haven, is surprised that oils and edibles seem to be taking over the market, but he can understand why pharmacists in the dispensaries find it easier to suggest dosage amounts.

“You know that if you eat a cookie with 20 milligrams of THC, it’s easier and more exact to medicate yourself rather than buying a flower with 25 percent THC and smoking it,” Lipton said, noting a change in the kinds of products the dispensaries are asking for. “I believe that as more and more doctors are made aware that when they’re recommending this their patients getting something formulated, they’ll feel assured they’re getting the right amount of medicine.”

Products from Advanced Grow Labs and the other three growers have a variety of forms and potencies, including various balances in the psychoactive ingredient THC and other compounds called CBDs, which have been found to lessen the effect of seizures, among other benefits.

Angela D’Amico, co-founder of D&B Wellness, the Bethel dispensary, said she expected oils and edibles to come to the forefront, after 10 years of contact and experience with medical cannabis dispensaries and patients in California.

“Since we’ve gotten in the concentrated cannabis oil, with one-to-one ratios between THC and CBD, the oils have come to the top of our largest use,” D’Amico said. “People are getting away from smoking loose flowers. They’re using oils for e-cigarettes and concentrated cannabis oil delivered in syringes sublingually.”

There are 11 ailments for which patients may be certified for use of medical cannabis and six more have been authorized for inclusion and are currently being reviewed for submission to the legislative Regulation Review Committee.

Smoke and oil

Brian Tomasulo, 34, of Newtown, said that when his personal physician certified him last year, the only product available at the D&B Wellness Center was traditional marijuana flowers for smoking.

“Basically, as they brought out more products, the pharmacist suggested more direction,” he said.

Diagnosed two years ago with testicular cancer that spread to his lymphatic system and lungs, after six months of chemotherapy and remission the cancer spread to his brain, causing seizures. He’s back works part-time as a personal trainer.

Now, he mostly uses oils that he puts under his tongue, sublingually, for headaches, although he occasionally smokes cannabis for faster relief from pain including joint soreness. He uses strains of oil that have higher CBD levels in the morning and a higher THC percentage at night.

“My brain had been so inflamed, I had a hard time speaking,” Tomasulo said. “I’m more clear-headed now.”

 

Baked Goods: Connecticut’s Medical Marijuana Industry

April 27th, 2015

Baked Goods: Connecticut’s Medical Marijuana Industry

The Walls Street Journal
April 27, 2015 | PDF (images) | PDF (full article)

Advanced Grow Labs is one of four state-licensed producers in Connecticut’s nascent medical-marijuana industry

Connecticut’s medical-marijuana industry

A marijuana plant at Advanced Grow Labs in West Haven, Conn. Advanced Grow Labs is one of four state-licensed producers in Connecticut’s nascent medical-marijuana industry. – Michelle McLoughlin for The Wall Street Journal

Advanced Grow Labs in The Wall Street Journal

The grow cycle begins in the so-called mother room. Here, plants get their start inside a temperature- and humidity-controlled tent. – Michelle McLoughlin for The Wall Street Journal

Medical marijuana plants grow in one of the lab’s flower rooms - Advanced Grow Labs in CT

Marijuana plants grow in one of the lab’s flower rooms, where rows of marijuana plants are divided by strains of indica, sativa and hybrids. – Michelle McLoughlin for The Wall Street Journal

Vice president of operations for Advanced Grow Labs, inspects some of the marijuana plants

Chris Mayle, executive vice president of operations for Advanced Grow Labs, inspects some of the marijuana plants. – Michelle McLoughlin for The Wall Street Journal

A marijuana plant at Advanced Grow Labs in West Haven, CT.

Marijuana plant strains are grown in the tissue culture lab to create a library of plant strains to be propagated for future use. – Michelle McLoughlin for The Wall Street Journal

Medical Marijuana - Advanced Grow Labs

Ian Colandro, a production manager at Advanced Grow Labs, in one of the facility’s grow rooms. Before entering the production area, production employees wearing pocketless scrubs are blasted with air for about 30 seconds—in an enclosed chamber—to clean them of any outside contaminants that may disturb the plants. – Michelle McLoughlin for The Wall Street Journal

Advanced Grow Labs - medical marijuana prescription bottles

Prescription bottles are filled with marijuana at Advanced Grow Labs. The state legalized the production and distribution of medical marijuana in 2012. – Michelle McLoughlin for The Wall Street Journal

Baked goods - Advanced Grow Labs

A production worker tests a new product. – Michelle McLoughlin for The Wall Street Journal

Chocolate chip cookies infused with THC

Chocolate chip cookies infused with THC packaged for distribution. – Michelle McLoughlin for The Wall Street Journal

Pre-rolls of medical marijuana - Advanced Grow Labs

Jeff Iassogna, left, and Craig Karner prepare pre-rolls of marijuana for distribution. – Michelle McLoughlin for The Wall Street Journal

Advanced Grow Labs in West Haven, CT

Advanced Grow Labs began production in July and had its first harvest in December. The company occupies part of a 62,000-square-foot warehouse in an industrial section of West Haven, Conn., located just off Interstate 95. – Michelle McLoughlin for The Wall Street Journal

New (Legal) Cash Crop in Connecticut

June 2nd, 2014

New (Legal) Cash Crop in Connecticut

The Wall Street Journal
By Joseph De Avila
June 2, 2014 | PDF | Online Article

Employees reporting for work at some plants will be required to change into scrubs. Then, they will pass through a room that will emit blasts of air to remove contaminants brought in from the outside. Computers will control temperature and humidity in the plant-growing areas, where an air-filtration system will screen for molds and pests.

David Lipton of Advanced Grow Labs - The Wall Street Journal“We aren’t just growing plants in a warehouse,” said David Lipton, the founder of Advanced Grow Labs in West Haven. The company is spending $2.5 million to retrofit a portion of a 62,000-square-foot building where it is the primary tenant. “We really are like a startup pharmaceutical company.”

Mr. Lipton, who operates a chain of women’s health clinics, is one of four growers licensed by the state, with sales generally expected to begin by late summer. The others include a former Wall Street executive and a former equities trader now disabled who says he wants to jump-start an industry he says can bring pain relief to others like him.

The producers are putting the finishing touches on buildings in Simsbury, West Haven, Portland and Watertown where they will cultivate the marijuana for the 2,000 patients in the state qualified to use the drug.

Besides the growers, the state picked six companies to run dispensaries that will sell the drug to the public.

Under a 2012 state law, Connecticut has set up what has been hailed as one of the nation’s most tightly regulated programs for medical marijuana. Lawmakers sought to avoid the path of early adopters such as California, dispensaries have proliferated across the state and prescriptions for the drug are relatively easy to come by.

Under Connecticut’s law, a licensed pharmacist must work at every dispensary. And, unlike California, where patients can get prescriptions for ailments such as migraines, Connecticut limits the availability of medical marijuana to people with 11 debilitating conditions. Included are HIV, cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

Some producers, such as Curaleaf, in Simsbury, also will be making medicine that patients can take in capsule or droplet form.

“When you think of that 80-year-old cancer patient…is smoking what they want?” said Robert Birnbaum, chief executive of Curaleaf and a former Wall Street investment manager.

Although state officials say they don’t plan to add any additional producers or dispensaries in the near future, that prospect still concerns some Connecticut cities and towns. Many communities have passed ban on future medical marijuana-related businesses.

On Tuesday, Bridgeport’s Zoning Commission voted for a year-long moratorium on medical marijuana businesses, citing safety and security concerns. Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who supports medical marijuana, backed the move, said his spokesman Brett Broesder.

“There is a lot of angst with these new experimental dispensaries,” Mr. Broesder said.

Whether the state decides to license additional dispensaries and producers will depend on the number of qualified patients who sign up and where they live, said William Rubenstein, commissioner of the Department of Consumer Protection, which regulates medical marijuana, pharmacies and pharmaceutical companies in the state.

Mr. Rubenstein said his department didn’t have an estimate of the number of patients.

“Once product is on the shelf, we expect the patient population to bump up,” he said.

Ethan Ruby, the chief executive at Theraplant, a marijuana producer in Watertown, said he estimated that the number of qualified patients would rise to between 5,000 and 6,000 by the end of December—and to 10,000 after a year of sales.

Mr. Ruby, a former equities trader, was hit by a car 14 years ago in New York City. The accident left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair. Several years later, he began using marijuana to alleviate his pain.

“The little bit of relief that I got showed me that there is medicinal value in this plant that needs to be studied,” he said.

The price of the marijuana to patients hasn’t been set, but producers say they expect the cost of their product to be somewhat comparable to the drug’s price on the black market. Insurance companies won’t be paying for it.

The state will use testing to ensure patients get a consistent dosage whenever they use the same marijuana product. Producers cannot label two marijuana products with the same brand name unless they share the same active-ingredient profile within a 3% range.

“They are more stringent than any state thus far,” said Genifer Murray, chief executive of CannLabs, a marijuana-testing lab in Denver that wants to open a lab in Connecticut.

Ms. Murray said it was unclear if producers can consistently meet this requirement since they will be growing plants—not making synthetic pharmaceuticals.

“We always have to operate within the art of the possible,” said Mr. Rubenstein of the Department of Consumer Protection. “It’s important that patients know what is in the medicine they are taking and in what proportions.”

Write to Joseph De Avila at joseph.deavila@wsj.com

 

Medical pot bringing jobs

June 1st, 2014

Medical marijuana’s first product, jobs

By Ken Dixon
Published 10:32 pm, Saturday, May 31, 2014 | PDF

Months before any cannabis-based products will reach patients, Connecticut’s new medical-marijuana industry has already created hundreds of jobs — in construction.

Former factories are being reconfigured into secure pharmaceutical facilities for the growing, harvesting, curing and preparation of various strains of marijuana that should be delivered to the state’s dispensaries by early fall.

Medical Marijuana bringing jobs to ConnecticutSince the state awarded four marijuana producer licenses in January, an estimated $20 million has been committed to the West Haven, Watertown, Portland and Simsbury buildings that in a few weeks will begin growing thousands of pounds of pot.

“As far as we know, folks are busy building out facilities, getting ready to produce product,” Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said in a recent interview. “They have six months to become operational.”

In a West Haven industrial zone parallel to Interstate 95, David Lipton, managing partner of the Fairfield-based Advanced Grow Labs, is supervising the conversion of 26,000 square feet of space that will house sterile laboratories, heavily lighted grow areas and budding rooms that will promote marijuana flowers, the part of the plant with the highest concentration of active ingredients.

During a tour of the sprawling, noisy one-story building last week, more than a dozen electricians, sheet-rock experts and other subcontractors worked to transform the space. The biggest construction surprise came, Lipton said, when his structural engineer announced the roof wasn’t strong enough to support the heavy-duty HVAC equipment needed to create an optimal growing climate, as well as the planned ceilings and rows of grow lights.

Steel roof beams have since been reinforced to handle the anticipated load and special, moisture-resistant sheetrock will line the walls.

Advanced Grow Labs is one of a series of new projects that are bringing economic growth, said Joseph A. Riccio Jr., commissioner of development for West Haven.

Last year, city building permits brought in $800,000 to the city, but in the first five months of this year, the total has already topped $1 million.

He said the medical marijuana industry is obviously fostering jobs while the region still recovers from the recession.

“This is a good boost for tradesmen,” he said during a phone interview last week. “Every job is a good job.”

Growing taxes

Lipton estimates his company has invested about $2.5 million in construction and equipment, employing dozens of workers at a time, from structural and mechanical engineers, to steel fabricators to sheetrock installers, tapers, masons, electricians and plumbers. Those workers are generating Worker’s Compensation and payroll taxes for the state.

“There’s definitely a positive effect on the economy,” he said, adding various building and work permits from West Haven generated revenue for the city and that once up and running, the company will also pay personal property taxes.

It was on Advanced Grow Labs’ cold, then-empty manufacturing floor, that Rubenstein and Gov. Dannel P. Malloy introduced the four producers who had been selected from 16 applicants.

“In early April we got our full building permit and then the construction began and in about seven weeks we’ve completed an incredible amount of work here,” Lipton said. “Hopefully, within the next few weeks we will complete some more and by early July, mid-July we will be done with construction.”

From there it will be about 90 days to harvest.

“We know we’re doing the right thing here,” said Lipton, adding that it may be a long time before his multi-million-dollar investment is recouped. “We’ll do our best to make the best product. This is a long-term business. I mean, how often do you see a start-up pharmaceutical company threaten Big Pharma?”

High-end kitchen

Lipton’s grower, Klaus Polttila, standing near what will be employee locker rooms, looked around at the building renovations and thought of the future.

“Growing is the easy part,” Polttila said. “Once the construction is done, we’ll ramp up very quickly.”

Other rooms will be used for drying and curing marijuana. The front entrance near Frontage Road features bullet-proof glass and a security nerve center. Toward the back of the building, in a room with a large walk-in safe, will be the kitchen, where the medical-grade cannabis will be ground up in a process unique to the nation. An outside laboratory will be contracted to test batches to assure they contain the percentage of active ingredients allowed in state regulations.

The marijuana will be packaged for secure delivery to the six designated dispensaries. While traditional dried marijuana will be ready to be smoked, Lipton is planning a variety of other products. Extracting machines in the kitchen will remove chemically active oils from marijuana for use in smokeless vaporizers, baked goods and topical salves.

Thirty-two miles to the north, in a hilltop Watertown industrial park near Route 8, Ethan Ruby, CEO of Theraplant, is supervising a similar conversion to a 63,000-square-foot building, about half of which will be renovated for initial production. The operation will have a 900-square-foot safe for storing market-ready material.

Ruby, who heads the state growers’ association, said his company has invested about $8 million, nearly half of the estimated $20 million the four producers have spent for the initial phases of operations.

On a recent day, Ruby counted 73 workers on-site, including landscapers, sheetrock installers and electricians.

“It’s going well,” Ruby said in a phone interview. “Our team that we put together has been incredibly diligent. The construction company has been on time and on budget during every single phase. And we couldn’t be happier with local building inspectors, fire, police. Couldn’t be happier. Patients should have product by the end of the summer.”

Laboratory science

Theraplant will not have a kitchen to create baked goods, but does have plans for extracting the THC and other cannabinoids that are the plants’ active ingredients. About 2,000 patients have registered so far, with ailments including cancer, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDs, Crohn’s disease and epilepsy.

Ruby has contacted laboratories that will be required to test batches of harvested plant material, but it’s too soon to sign agreements, he said.

It’s too soon to determine what marijuana will cost patients, but Lipton and Ruby both said they will seek to make it competitive, or cheaper than the underground market. The website priceofweed.com rates Connecticut’s market at $300 to $400 per ounce. Participants in the medical marijuana program will be able to purchase up to two-and-a-half ounces per month.

Vaporization of the drug will likely become the preferred delivery method, Ruby said, allowing patients to inhale the chemical compounds without actually smoking the material.

“The more health-conscious will be gravitating toward this,” Ruby said. “And doctors and pharmacists will be better able to control prescribed amounts.”

He feels good about the producers, including CT Pharmaceutical Solutions in Portland and Curaleaf in Simsbury, and their ability to meet market demands.

“Each cares about getting medicine to the patients in a controlled way,” he said. “As a producer, I’m not trying to grow a better strain than David Lipton. We’re in competition with people who don’t believe this is going to work.”

kdixon@ctpost.com; 860-549-4670; twitter.com/KenDixonCT; facebook.com/kendixonct.hearst; blog.ct news.com/dixon