The founder of an Andover-based nonprofit passed over this year for a medical marijuana dispensary is “in utter disbelief” that a competing group accused of omitting key background information on its application got state approval last week for two additional dispensaries.
The Cardiac Arrhythmia Syndromes Foundation of Andover has accused Patriot Care Corp., a nonprofit that in June was awarded a provisional certificate to operate a dispensary in Lowell, of lying on its application when it stated that one of its executives, Nicholas K. Vita, had no legal or administrative actions against him, according to a lawsuit filed against the state Department of Public Health
DPH in June disqualified six applicants initially selected for operation in January for providing false or misleading information on their applications. But questions persist about the veracity of information on the applications of several of the 11 allowed to proceed, including Patriot Care and Healthy Pharms in Haverhill.
On Nov. 7, DPH announced that four new dispensary applications proposed in counties currently without a dispensary would move into an inspectional phase, including proposals by Patriot Care in Boston and Greenfield. Patriot Care would be the only company in Massachusetts operating three dispensaries.
“I’m totally in utter disbelief,” Jayne Vining, founder of CAS Foundation, said. “I don’t understand it. I couldn’t understand how they got one license, let alone two more.”
Dennis Kunian, vice president in charge of government relations for Patriot Care, did not address the contents of the lawsuit but said the nonprofit is pleased with the invitation to open two more dispensaries.
“We’re really proud and honored to have received the license from DPH, and obviously we’re very excited about moving forward,” he said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for us, along with Lowell where we previously got state approval from DPH.”
When asked whether the company was aware Vita was involved in several court actions, Kunian responded, “We’re really excited about the next steps.”
A DPH spokesman defended the agency’s record and pointed to court rulings in its favor.
“We are pleased that the courts have ruled in our favor against eight rejected applicants, validating our comprehensive selection process and allowing us to move forward,” Scott Zoback, a spokesman for DPH’s Medical Use of Marijuana Program, said. “We are focused on meeting our goals of patient access and public safety. We are actively inspecting dispensaries now, with the first facilities set to open later this winter.”
CAS Foundation, founded in 2008, filed a lawsuit in March against DPH, claiming that Patriot Care omitted several past legal actions against Vita in a section of the application that explicitly asked for such background information.
Section three of the application asked whether executive members had any criminal, civil, administrative, tax or other proceedings against them in the past.
According to an unredacted copy of Patriot Care’s application, Vita’s name is accompanied by “n/a” under the portions of that section asking whether members were party to civil or administrative actions pertaining to fraud, bankruptcy or tax issues, among other things. The application questions state that “n/a” indicates “no such history” of actions.
But Vita, as chairman of a company called Diabetes America, Inc., filed for bankruptcy in the southern district of Texas in 2010, according to court documents.
That same year, the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance won a tax warrant, which according to that state department is equivalent to a tax lien, for $22,949.24 against Vita in New York County. According to the department, that warrant was paid and closed in July 2010.
The following year, Vita, as chairman of Diabetes America, was listed as a defendant with two other company officers in a civil suit in Texas by Wellness Wireless, Inc., alleging fraud. Wellness Wireless demanded $1.8 million and other damages in the suit. Vita was removed from the case in 2013, according to court records from Harris County, Texas, where the case was filed.
Additionally, CAS in its lawsuit argued that multiple people were improperly left off Patriot Care’s executive management team roster in parts of the application, exempting them from the mandatory background checks.
Patriot Care in several places listed three executives: Vita, Robert Mayerson of Harvard and Michael Abbot, who shares a Nantucket address with Vita.
But in another part, Patriot Care lists a total of 11 people on its executive management team. CAS argues that the job descriptions of many of those people include “individuals who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the” dispensary according to DPH’s definition of executive management team.
DPH’s application included a list of instructions that warned failure to follow them, or providing false or misleading information would result in disqualification.
The applications of several medical marijuana dispensaries were marred by accusations of misleading or false information, including Healthy Pharms in Haverhill. Several city officials there disputed the characterizations of meetings with a company representative on Healthy Pharms’ application.
Healthy Pharms received a provisional certificate in June.
DPH selected a total of 20 applications from 16 nonprofits for provisional licenses in January. After media reports of inaccurate information in dispensary applications in February, the DPH conducted a second, unscheduled review of those 20 applications, including checking the veracity of claims contained within them.
Of those 20 applications, nine were rejected in June for a range of reasons. But six of them were rejected for providing false or misleading information on their applications: Three applications from Medical Marijuana of Massachusetts, the nonprofit led by former Congressman William Delahunt that proposed dispensaries in Mashpee, Plymouth and Taunton; two from Good Chemistry of Massachusetts, with a proposal each in Boston and Worcester; and one from Green Heart Holistic Health, which proposed a dispensary in Boston.
Gov. Deval Patrick in August put two applications for New England Treatment Access on hold after questions surfaced over whether a senior official with the company lied on his resume about graduating from college.
A map of dispensary locations DPH released on Nov. 7 still lists New England Treatment Access’s dispensaries.
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