A 2005 felony drug conviction is coming back to haunt an emerging figure in Maine’s marijuana industry and threaten his consulting gig in Ohio.

Trevor Bozeman

But Trevor Bozeman, a 33-year-old Brunswick chemist, says his experience growing marijuana before it became legal only boosts his value to the industry, making him a better expert witness to testify in front of Maine lawmakers launching the state’s nascent adult-use cannabis market, and a better lab manager and researcher at Canuvo, one of Maine’s eight state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries.

In Ohio, however, some lawmakers say Bozeman’s felony conviction disqualifies him to judge who should get one of the state’s 24 medical marijuana licenses. His one-person company, iCann Consulting LLC, won a share of a $150,000 state contract in June to score medical marijuana license applicants. One of the companies that didn’t secure a license outed Bozeman’s criminal record this week, sparking a political firestorm in the midst of a hotly contested gubernatorial race.

The Ohio regulatory agency is standing by Bozeman, saying the application process will continue without interruption to its time line or personnel. While applicants for the licenses had to undergo a criminal background check, and would be rendered ineligible for even an ancient drug misdemeanor, Ohio’s request for proposals didn’t ask the respondents to disclose their criminal record nor require a criminal background check, according to records. In other words, Bozeman didn’t lie.

But the degree-laden chemist – Bozeman has a Ph.D. in chemistry from Arizona State University – now finds himself defending his right to work the cannabis field.

“The industry is going to have to come to terms with the fact that most of us who have a lot of experience in this field are going to have a criminal history,” Bozeman said. “It’s the elephant in the room. Do we want people who don’t have a lot of experience shaping this industry? No. And if you have a lot of experience, you probably started before it became legal. Some of us got caught, and some of us didn’t. I was one of the ones that got caught.”

FREQUENT POT TESTIMONY IN AUGUSTA

Bozeman was 21 years old when he was arrested in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, in 2005 for having 200 grams of marijuana, less than half a pound or a little less than three times the amount of cannabis that a Maine adult can now possess under the Maine Legalization Act. Police there say he was selling the pot to fellow students at Susquehanna University. He pleaded guilty to a single felony charge of manufacturing, delivering and possessing marijuana, court records show.

Bozeman paid a $2,100 fine and served three years of probation, court records show. Susquehanna expelled him, forcing Bozeman to return to Maine, where he completed his bachelor’s degree in chemistry at the University of Southern Maine, Bozeman said. After getting his doctorate, he went on to work in the pharmaceutical field, on a drug that treats cancer, before getting disgusted with that industry’s profit obsession and getting a paid job in his passion field, marijuana.

The articulate, soft-spoken Bozeman testified frequently before Maine’s Marijuana Legalization Implementation Committee in Augusta as it worked to develop a set of cultivation, processing and sales regulations for Maine’s commercial recreational pot market. He often cited his consulting job in Ohio and his degrees before he offered up his opinions on the best practices on issues ranging from marijuana cultivation to extraction to social clubs.

He never mentioned his conviction, but no one on the committee ever asked him, or any other expert, about it. But the subject of criminal backgrounds did come up.

Although Gov. Paul LePage vetoed the committee bill in October, the bipartisan committee agreed that no one with a disqualifying drug offense – a conviction for a state or federal drug crime punishable by a year or more of jail time – should be able to get a Maine adult-use license. It requires the same clean record for anyone who wants to work at a medical marijuana dispensary or become a caregiver.

But a felony drug conviction doesn’t necessarily mean the end of a Mainer’s marijuana dream job – more like a delay. Because the committee, along with those who wrote the state’s medical marijuana law, agree that someone who has completed his or her sentence for a disqualifying drug offense more than 10 years prior to application can still apply for a license. And if the drug offense is for marijuana cultivation or possession, they can apply even before 10 years is up.

Groups like Marijuana Policy Project of Maine have lobbied to allow Mainers who have operated in the cannabis black market in the past a route to legal participation in a medical or adult-use marijuana market, as long as the cannabis they were growing and selling did not end up in the hands of children and there was no violence involved. This kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to a person’s black-market marijuana history is often dubbed “the original sin” of the industry.

That 10-year statute of limitations is what allows Bozeman to participate in the medical marijuana industry here in Maine. If the adult-use cannabis committee’s approach to applicants’ criminal backgrounds stands, Bozeman also would be eligible to apply for a license to grow, process, sell or test adult-use marijuana. In both cases, an applicant who had been convicted of a crime that would no longer be illegal under current law could apply.

CRIMINAL CHARGES IN MAINE AT AGE 18

Bozeman also has a criminal record in Maine. In March 2003, he was arrested in South Portland and charged with assault, carrying concealed weapons, and threatening, court records show. A TV report on the incident at the time said police seized two knives from Bozeman, who was 18 at the time. He pleaded guilty to misdemeanor threatening, received a six-month suspended sentence and was put on probation for a year.

Bozeman described the incident as a “lover’s spat” that happened after he learned that his girlfriend had been unfaithful. He said there was a lot of yelling, but neither he nor his girlfriend touched each other during the incident. A coworker called the police, he said. The knives that were seized were pocket knives found in his pants when the police searched him, he said. “We were emotional high schoolers,” he said. “It was not a big deal.”

His boss, Glenn Peterson, agrees. The outspoken dispensary co-founder hired Bozeman about three months ago, after watching him share his “wealth of knowledge” at marijuana committee meetings. He said Bozeman is a valued member of his staff, running his lab and helping Canuvo hone its in-house extraction processes. He is also conducting in-house product testing and research and development.

Peterson was not surprised when Bozeman told him about the arrest in Pennsylvania. He investigated it and concluded it was “all smoke, no fire,” Peterson said.

“What he did is legal in California now,” said Peterson, who himself has faced down decades-old drug charges. “But hey, welcome to the club. Cannabis is not for wimps.”

In light of the Ohio controversy, Peterson noted that he had paid the $56 required to have the state conduct a background check on Bozeman. In return, the state sent a card back that allows Bozeman to work at Canuvo, meaning that he passed the background check. While Peterson isn’t exactly sure what the background check entails, he knows that it includes a review for disqualifying drug offenses. As far as Peterson is concerned, Bozeman is a godsend.

“I think of Trevor as an American success story,” Peterson said. “There he was, 20 years old, caught dealing a little pot. It seems like his life is over, but it’s not. He does probation and pays for his crime, such as it was. He goes on to get not one, but two, degrees, a Ph.D. in chemistry no less. I mean, this guy is doing cutting-edge stuff with this plant. … He has become a huge contributor in the cannabis community, making a living helping sick people get their medicine.”

Penelope Overton can be contacted at 791-6463 or at:

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