BOSTON — State cannabis regulators halted all business of a licensee that has locations in Sheffield and Attleboro as they investigate an owner who "allegedly conspired to evade Commonwealth licensing and drug laws, thereby posing an imminent danger to public health, safety, and welfare."
The Cannabis Control Commission froze all medical and adult-use marijuana activity at Nova Farms, LLC, and ordered a quarantine of its marijuana on Friday with a summary suspension order after the agency became aware of pending criminal charges against Mark Rioux, who is listed as a person with an ownership or controlling interests in six Massachusetts licenses.
The CCC said that none of Nova Farms' licenses have commenced operations in either the medical or non-medical markets in Massachusetts.
"The Commission takes these allegations seriously and is taking immediate action to protect against the risks of diversion and criminal elements entering the legal market," CCC Executive Director Shawn Collins said. "The Commonwealth has enacted strict laws and regulations to ensure our legal cannabis industry is safe and accessible. As these allegations would undermine those objectives, the Commission will continue to investigate and work alongside our counterparts in Attleboro and Sheffield to uphold public health and public safety first and foremost."
Rioux, who has registered with the CCC as a marijuana establishment agent and also is in the commercial leasing business, is listed as having ownership or control in six Massachusetts licenses: a final license for an outdoor growing operation in Sheffield, provisional licenses for indoor cultivation in both Sheffield and Attleboro, a provisional license for product manufacturing in Attleboro, a provisional license for an Attleboro retail store and a provisional license for an Attleboro medical dispensary, the CCC said.
He pleaded not guilty late last month to conspiracy to violate the narcotics laws to traffic in marijuana in Attleboro District Court, the Sun Chronicle reported. The CCC said, citing the municipal police, said that Rioux allegedly associated with Marshall Muir, who was charged as a co-conspirator with Rioux to violate the drug laws.
"In August, the Attleboro Police Department conducted a forensic search of Muir's cellphone and identified text communications between Muir and Rioux indicating Rioux's efforts to scout a warehouse location for Muir to set up an illicit marijuana grow operation," the CCC said in its press release. "The forensic search found communications that established Rioux's awareness of Muir's illicit operation and Muir's efforts to avoid detection by law enforcement."
Rioux denied his involvement in the illicit growing operation after his August arraignment.
"That's totally false. I'm a real estate agent," he said after the arraignment, the Sun Chronicle reported.
The CCC said it determined that Rioux's alleged involvement in the illicit market conspiracy combined with his control of legitimate market licenses "establishes an immediate threat to public health, safety, and welfare." Nova Farms surrendered Rioux's marijuana establishment agent cards last week, the CCC said.
Nova Farms has 14 days to request a hearing with the CCC. It has been ordered to "immediately quarantine and secure all marijuana and marijuana products at any stage of cultivation and production, comply with inspections, requests for information, and requests for documents and interviews, and to post the Commission's notice conspicuously at each affected location."