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Change at the top in bid for marijuana permits

Claim on resume halted action on 2 marijuana dispensaries

Kevin Fisher, executive director of a company that won provisional licenses for two Massachusetts medical marijuana dispensaries in June, resigned his position this weekend after recent reports that he had wrongly claimed on the dispensary applications that he had a college degree.

“It is with a heavy heart that I have arrived at this decision,” Fisher wrote to the board of directors of New England Treatment Access Inc. “But given the current climate regarding the error I included in my resume, I feel that this action is necessary to ensure that [the company’s] mission to deliver the highest quality patient education and cannabis therapies continue unencumbered.”

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The letter, dated Saturday, is the latest chapter in a high-stakes and increasingly contentious state process to select companies for coveted marijuana dispensary licenses.

New England Treatment Access is the only company to receive more than one of the 11 provisional dispensary licenses awarded by the state two months ago. Nine other applicants were knocked out of the running over questionable finances and for providing misleading information in a selection process riddled with controversy.

State health officials had let New England Treatment go forward with plans to open medical marijuana dispensaries in Northampton and Brookline, even though a company hired by the state to screen applicants had detected the missing degree problem in April. After the discrepancy about Fisher’s academic claims was reported by the Globe last week, the state put those licenses on hold.

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In a separate letter to state regulators, also dated Saturday, the company’s chief financial officer, Arnon Vered, wrote that New England Treatment had accepted Fisher’s resignation. The letter assured the state that Fisher would no longer be a member, director, or officer of the company, and will have no role in its governance.

“We regret that the discrepancy in Mr. Fisher’s resume has caused a distraction from the mission of the Department of Public Health to provide qualifying patients with access to the highest quality dispensaries possible,” Vered wrote. “While we have confidence in Mr. Fisher’s expertise, experience, and achievements in Colorado, we understand that his mistake, though perhaps unintentional, was careless.”

Vered’s letter said that he would be assuming the role of executive director and chief operating officer of the company, positions that Fisher resigned.

State health department spokesman Dave Kibbe said in an e-mailed statement that his agency had received New England Treatment’s letter and is reviewing the company’s proposed management changes. He said the company’s two provisional licenses remain on hold, and he declined to comment further.

Fisher, the owner of a marijuana business in Colorado, had said on his application that he had earned a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Youngstown State University, but the school has no record of his receiving any degree.

When first asked about the degree discrepancy by the Globe earlier this month, Fisher said he thought he had been awarded a degree. After state regulators put the company’s licenses on hold, New England Treatment sent the state a letter last week saying that several life-changing events — the death of Fisher’s mother and his estrangement from his father — during Fisher’s final college semester so affected him that he couldn’t focus on whether he actually graduated.

In its latest letter to state regulators, the company said that its structure is not based on Fisher alone, but instead on a team that includes experts in a variety of fields, including patient education, security, and cultivation. The company, it said, “has already made deep investments in critical products and services that will be very beneficial to qualifying patients seeking access to the highest-quality therapies.”

It also said that the company is on track to be among the first to open dispensaries, due to its “hard work and significant investment.”

“Our cultivation and processing facility is just weeks away from being ready for inspection,” the letter said, “and we have budgeted to hire 50 new employees in the next six months.”

New England Treatment also told regulators that continuing to keep its two licenses on hold would have a “negative impact” on patients.

“It would also have an adverse effect on those communities counting on the economic benefits that will come with our cultivation and registered medical marijuana dispensaries in the form of jobs, spending, and, revenue,” the letter stated.

Kay Lazar can be reached at Kay.Lazar@globe.com Follow her on Twitter @GlobeKayLazar. Shelley Murphy can be reached at Shelley.Murphy@globe.com Follow her on Twitter @Shelleymurph. Todd Wallack can be reached at Todd.Wallack@globe.com.
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