Two former executives with one of Minnesota's medical marijuana companies face felony charges of illegally sending cannabis oil out of state.
The charges were filed in Wright County District Court on Monday against the former chief medical officer and the former security director of Minnesota Medical Solutions (MMS). Convictions on each of the two counts against Laura Bultman and Ronald Owens could bring two years in prison and a $3,000 fine.
Charges say they tried to help their parent company
Agents with Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension investigated after a tip from another former MMS executive. They say company records show that in December of 2015 MMS sent jars of marijuana oil from their facility in Otsego to their patient center in Minneapolis.
But the complaint notes that the Minneapolis center only sells pills and liquid capsules and cannot process marijuana oil. Instead, investigators say, Bultman drove the oil in an armored vehicle to Vireo Health in New York. They say they do not believe Owens' statements that the oil was incinerated at a garbage burner in Alexandria.
Wright County's chief criminal prosecutor tells MPR News Vireo Health was in trouble because it couldn't meet its production deadlines in New York. "They were behind, and that's why they needed the oils (from) Minnesota," Brian Lutes tells the network.
Why would this be illegal?
The Minnesota law setting up the state's medical marijuana program says cannabis can only be provided to a caregiver, a patient, or the parent/guardian of a patient. And they have to be listed on the state's medical marijuana registry.
The Albany Times Union notes that since the U.S. government considers marijuana illegal – even for medical purposes – transporting it across state lines is a crime. Right now, though, there are only charges at the state level.
In an emailed statement, Vireo Health told GoMN they are cooperating with the agencies investigating the case.
“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," they said.
Lawyers for both Bultman and Owens told MPR their clients are innocent and will fight the charges.
The Times Union reports Vireo said last summer the claims came from a disgruntled employee who had been fired by the company and said he would harm the business.