Cannabis panel: Nova Farms can maintain inventory as inquest continues

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SHEFFIELD — The state Cannabis Control Commission is allowing a marijuana manufacturer with locations in Sheffield and Attleboro to maintain its inventory while their license remains suspended.

On Sept. 9, the agency froze all medical and adult-use marijuana activity at Nova Farms LLC and ordered a quarantine of its marijuana after it became aware of a criminal drug charge that was pending against Mark Rioux, who had ownership or controlling interests in six state licenses.

A few weeks later, the charge of conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws to traffic marijuana was dismissed in Attleboro District Court. On Oct. 4, the commission amended the suspension to allow the company to maintain their plants while it continues its investigation into the company.

"Nova Farms is delighted that the charges against Mark Rioux have been dropped. Though Mark Rioux is no longer part of Nova Farms, it sheds a strong light on the fact that Nova Farms takes all accusations very seriously," Chief Operating Officer Blair Fish said in a written statement. "Now that our suspension has been amended to allow for cultivation and harvest, we're very excited to get back to business at our Sheffield Farm."

Nova Farms has a 90-acre outdoor cultivation area on Kellogg Road in Sheffield.

Rioux, a commercial real estate agent, was accused of scouting out a warehouse site where another man could run an illicit grow facility. Rioux had denied the charge before it was dismissed.

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At the time, the commission said that Rioux's alleged involvement in the illicit market conspiracy and his holding of several legitimate licenses "establishes an immediate threat to public health, safety and welfare."

While Nova Farms license remains suspended, the amended rules allow the company feed and irrigate its 3,200 plants, undertake preexisting pest management and preventative maintenance programs, and harvest, according to the amended suspension notice, provided by a commission spokeswoman.

In the statement, Fish said the company's goal always has been to be a "pioneer in the Massachusetts' cannabis market and to comply with all Mass CCC regulations."

"To that end, we have worked hand-in-hand with the Mass CCC since our suspensions to make sure that no stone has been left unturned," Fish wrote. "The Mass CCC has been clear, resolute and vigilant in their investigation and we appreciate their dedication to the health, safety and welfare of the commonwealth."

In July, Fish had said that farmers already had planted about 20 strains of cannabis in Sheffield and expected that about 30 percent of the product sold at the company's Framingham and Attleboro retail shops will come from the Sheffield farm. At the time, Nova also was exploring opening a retail outlet in Berkshire County, with properties in Great Barrington and Lee under consideration.

"The licenses are still under suspension order with the exception of maintaining inventory," a commission spokeswoman said in an email Tuesday. "The commission declines further comment as the investigation into Nova Farms remains ongoing."

Haven Orecchio-Egresitz can be reached at horecchio@berkshireeagle.com, @HavenEagle on Twitter and 413-770-6977.


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