Medical Marijuana Smuggling Case Headed To Trial, Threatens Programs In New York, Minnesota

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Photo Credit: Mark Mirko

A judge ruled that enough evidence exists to bring marijuana smuggling allegations against two ex-officers of Vireo Health to trial, threatening the state medical marijuana programs in Minnesota and New York.

Connected to the White Plains-based Vireo Health dispensary, the two ex-officers are accused of driving marijuana-based oil from Minnesota to New York to save the fledgling company from missing a deadline to open shop in New York state.

Citing legal precedent, Minnesota District Judge Kathleen Mottl determined prosecutors had enough proof to debate at trial the alleged scheme. The case features a daring 11th-hour  drive in the company’s armored vehicle and a New York state-run laboratory.

“This court concludes that there is a reasonable probability that the cannabis oil was ‘discarded’ by Vireo Health New York whether (through) conversion/sale of the oil or destruction of the actual product,” Mottl wrote.

The trial will be held in a Minnesota court as the state is home to Vireo Health’s headquarters. Mottl denied requests to have the case tossed against Dr. Laura Bultman and Ronald Owens, the company’s former chief medical officer and chief security officer.

Bultman and Owens face felony charges of smuggling $500,000 worth of cannabis oil into New York. They face up to two years in jail and a $3,000 fine for violating Minnesota state medical marijuana laws.

The judge, however, approved some requests by Bultman’s attorney, Paul Engh. He accused state investigators of witness intimidation and evidence manipulation. Mottle ordered that prosecutors provide further records related to the allegations.

Some aspects of the case are connected to New York state’s medical marijuana program, such as allegations that the marijuana oil was sold illegally to patients here and tested at the state government’s Wadsworth Laboratory.

New York State Department of Health, which oversees the medical marijuana program, has said it was independently investigating the alleged smuggling and would release its findings after the criminal case concludes.

The pre-trial proceedings are scheduled to get underway in Minnesota next month.

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