The revelation by the Cannabis Control Commission comes a week after the Globe Spotlight Team reported that two major companies, Sea Hunter Therapeutics and Acreage Holdings, have publicly bragged to investors about amassing large numbers of licenses in Massachusetts — despite rules barring any one entity from owning or controlling more than three licenses to operate medical marijuana stores or three licenses for recreational stores.
Since that report was published, the Globe requested from the commission records relating to any allegations that companies were violating licensing caps, including memos by the Department of Public Health, which had overseen the medical marijuana industry in Massachusetts before transferring oversight to the commission in December.
A lawyer for the commission, Andrew Carter, cited an ongoing investigation in a letter denying the Globe’s request. Carter said disclosing the records could hinder the commission’s investigation and jeopardize future probes, as well as invade the privacy of people under review.
Meanwhile, a copy of a DPH memo, dated last August and obtained from a source this week by the Globe, indicated the agency had been aware of problems with two companies, Sea Hunter Therapeutics and Acreage Holdings.
Sea Hunter, for instance, is affiliated with companies working to open a dozen stores across the state under various names, including Commonwealth Alternative Care, Verdant Medical, Herbology, Ermont, and Elev8. Meanwhile, Acreage told investors it either owned or had connections to a dozen other stores in development; Acreage’s network of companies includes the Botanist, Mass Medi-Spa, Patient Centric of Martha’s Vineyard Ltd., and Health Circle.
Acreage officials declined to comment, and Alex Coleman, chief executive of Sea Hunter’s parent company, Tilt Holdings, said in a statement, “We have no knowledge of a DPH or CCC review.” Both companies have denied violating any rules and insist their operations are within the boundaries of Massachusetts law.
The only company that Sea Hunter Therapeutics acknowledges owning is Commonwealth Alternative Care, which has a store in Taunton (above) and plans to open stores in Cambridge’s Inman Square and Brockton.
According to the DPH memo, that agency found that a number of entities holding medical marijuana licenses issued by DPH were “using Department loopholes to hide Acreage or Sea Hunter Therapeutics, LLC’s affiliations.” The memo also says that the entities were further exploiting “loopholes in order to not have to submit to the Department contracts with some of” Sea Hunter’s affiliates.
It went on to say that, to hide their connections, the firms “created shell companies.” The memo indicates that DPH began the investigation last May following an inquiry about the two companies from a Globe reporter.
Ann Scales, spokeswoman for the DPH, declined to comment Wednesday on the substance of the memo.
Despite making the findings in August, DPH did not act on the information before transferring oversight of medical marijuana to the cannabis commission in late December.