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Marijuana Panel Approves Sale Of NETA To Suterra Wellness

A NETA associate dispenses some of the Bruce Banner strain of cannabis at the Brookline dispensary. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
A NETA associate dispenses some of the Bruce Banner strain of cannabis at the Brookline dispensary. (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The Cannabis Control Commission on Thursday approved the sale of New England Treatment Access, the company with Northampton and Brookline retail marijuana stores and a cultivation facility in Franklin, but not before commissioners raised concerns about the buyer's track record in Florida.

The vote was unanimous in favor of the sale to Georgia-based Surterra Wellness, led by the former head of the Wrigley chewing gum empire William "Beau" Wrigley Jr. But commissioners added conditions to require Surterra to submit plans to comply with Massachusetts regulations around edible products, advertising and marketing.

Those conditions, requested by Commissioner Kay Doyle, stemmed from reports that a Surterra facility that processes marijuana products was shut down for having not completed a food safety inspection and that the company violated Florida restrictions around advertising and marketing of medical marijuana products.

Patrick Beyea, the CCC's director of investigations, told commissioners that he reached out to his counterpart at the Florida medical marijuana program to ask about the company's track record. The Florida official, Beyea said, could not share too many details because of patient privacy requirements.

"But she did say that Surterra was in compliance with everything and that any deficiencies that have been observed in past inspections have been corrected and they are in good standing with the Florida medical marijuana program," he told the CCC on Thursday.

Commissioner Shaleen Title asked Beyea about a settlement related to an employee separation. The investigations chief said the agreement was a "confidential and mutually-agreeable settlement" that did not raise any red flags for his staff.

A year since it began licensing marijuana businesses, the CCC has now trained an eye on a smattering of requests for changes in control or ownership of the companies that make up the state's fledgling legal marijuana industry. The flurry of requests comes amid reports about creative corporate tactics to bend state rules governing how many licenses any one entity can control.

The sale of NETA to Surterra was the fifth change of control or ownership application approved by the CCC. In April, the panel OK'ed ownership changes for East Coast OrganicsCaregiver-Patient Connection and Alternative Therapies Group.

The CCC also approved the sale of Sira Naturals to Cannabis Strategies Acquisition Corp. in late May.

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