WESTERLY — Municipal zoning and building officials hope to schedule an inspection soon of a medical marijuana growing operation at the former Bradford Dyeing Association mill.
The effort comes about five months after Tyler Losacano, of Glastonbury, Conn., driving a Mercedes SUV, was arrested on the road outside the property and charged with transporting marijuana. Losacano told the police he was bringing the marijuana from a grow operation in the Westerly Airport Industrial Park to another marijuana operation in the former plant, which is now called the Bradford Industrial Park. The Sun has previously reported on the town’s successful efforts in 2014 to force one of the two other marijuana operations at the mill to comply with municipal regulations; sources have also confirmed the existence of the third grow operation.
Some zoning and building files on medical marijuana growing operations are sealed because of medical confidentiality provisions in state and federal law. As a result, town officials themselves would not confirm whether the third business exists at the mill and would also not acknowledge the business at the airport industrial park.
The town inspection had been scheduled for last week but was postponed because of the snowstorm. It will be carried out in conjunction with a “notice of apparent zoning violation” issued on March 9 by Zoning Officer Nathan Reichert to Nick Griseto, who owns the mill property, and Thad Luzzi, of Glastonbury, who leases space at the mill, according to the violation notice.
Losacano, 23 at the time, was arrested on Oct. 12 and was originally charged by Westerly police with manufacture/possession/delivery of more than 5 kilograms of marijuana, based on an assertion that he was carrying 19 kilograms or about 42 pounds of marijuana. He told police that he was dating Luzzi’s daughter and that he was bringing the marijuana from Luzzi’s industrial park site to Bradford, where he said Luzzi maintained a second growing operation.
The town’s notice says the Luzzi business lacks a zoning certificate. In addition, the notice says, “It is alleged by Mr. Griseto that there is an unpermitted medical marijuana operation within the complex…Further that Mr. Thad Luzzi is the operator of this lease.”
Griseto and Luzzi have been engaged in a landlord-tenant dispute that is playing out in Washington County Superior Court. It involves a disagreement over how much Griseto has charged Luzzi for electricity. Robert Lombardo, Griseto’s lawyer, said his client has been trying to force Luzzi to leave for months. Lombardo also said Luzzi violated terms of his lease by failing to secure the proper permits.
Luzzi did not respond to two messages seeking comment for this article. Kelly Fracassa, Luzzi’s attorney in the tenant case, said he could not comment on his involvement with Losacano because he was not familiar with that case. Losacano’s attorney, Joseph Voccola, has not responded to requests for comment.
Losacano’s criminal case was moved to Washington County Superior Court because he was charged with a felony. Under a new charging document filed by the state Office of the Attorney General, he now faces one charge of possession of more than 1 kilogram but less than 5 kilograms of a mixture containing a detectable amount of marijuana; and with unlawful possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. Losacano’s next pretrial conference is set for April 17. He has not entered a plea.
The quantity of marijuana specificed in this case carries maximum penalties of up to 50 years in prison, or a fine of up to a half million dollars.
The Westerly police narrative, written by Lt. Robert Warner, states that Losacano was stopped by Hopkinton Officer David Whewell after two other Hopkinton police officers, at Ashaway Road and Main Street, smelled marijuana and observed a greenish-brown substance in the back of Losacano’s vehicle as he drove past them. The vehicle was registered to Luzzi.
Whewell, who had been notified of the traffic detail’s observations, said he pulled Losacano over after the SUV crossed the center line on Ashaway Road. In addition to the marijuana charges, Losacano was cited for a laned roadway violation.
Westerly officers were called to the scene because the traffic stop occurred as Losacano crossed the town line. The Westerly officers reported smelling marijuana and also saw the marijuana in plain view in 12 clear plastic totes. One officer said he could smell “raw marijuana” 20 feet from the vehicle. The marijuana and the SUV were seized.
Losacano told officers that he did not work for Luzzi and was bringing the marijuana to Bradford for trimming. He also told police that he did not have a state medical marijuana or caregiver card. According to Losacano’s statement to police, Luzzi’s airport industrial park business is located in a building owned by Louis Misto III (Misto’s Strobes N’ More business is in a different building that Misto owns in the industrial park).
Town property records confirm that a corporation run by Misto owns the building used by Luzzi. Misto referred questions to his lawyer, Michael Lynch, who said he advises landlords to refrain from discussing the business of their tenants.
The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act establishes regulations for growing medical marijuana in Rhode Island. The town’s medical marijuana ordinance, which is based on the state law, allows the following types of growing operations: patient cultivation, caregiver cultivation, cooperative cultivation, and larger operations called licensed cultivation. With the exception of licensed cultivators, zoning and building permits and files for growing operations are sealed.
The local ordinance was adopted in October 2016 and amended in November 2017 to add the licensed cultivator category. Since no permits have yet been issued by the town for licensed cultivators, the operations that Luzzi is said to be running — in order to be legal under state and town rules — would have to be patient, caregiver, or cooperative cultivations.
However, the amount of marijuana that the police said Losacano was delivering could raise questions about whether Luzzi’s operations are in compliance with the law. The ordinance sets the following limits: patient cultivators can possess up to 12 mature and 12 immature and 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana; caregiver cultivation (cultivation for medical use only by a single registered caregiver cardholder) can posses up to 12 mature and 12 immature plants per patient cardholder they are growing for, and up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana for each patient they are growing for; and cooperative cultivators (two or more cardholders who cooperatively cultivate marijuana) can possess up to 48 mature and 24 immature plants and up to 10 ounces of usable marijuana. Only one cooperative cultivation is allowed in a single building.
Police throughout the state and in Westerly have raised concerns about the medical marijuana law. Their concerns include a lack of information on the number and location of legal growing operations, and on the amounts of marijuana that are being grown, in addition to the usable marijuana on the property.
Westerly police officers authorized to speak with the media could not be reached for comment for this article. Sidney Wordell, executive director of the Rhode Island Police Chiefs’ Association, declined comment except to say the association is “participating in the legislative process” related to the state medical marijuana law.
Losacano, the police reported, agreed to let them search the vehicle immediately after he was pulled over. In the course of their investigation, the Westerly Police received a warrant from District Court Judge Stephen M. Isherwood to search the vehicle again, but there has been no indication that other drugs were discovered.