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Pot retailer denies executives pressured state officials

February 22, 2022 Marina Villeneuve, Associated Press
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The legal record will show that executives of the Cannabis retailer Ascend Wellness did not exert political pressure on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration by attending a December fundraiser and then meeting with state officials, its lawyer said.

Ascend Wellness filed a lawsuit in state court in January claiming that cannabis company MedMen failed to follow through on a $75 million deal to sell its New York operations to Ascend Wellness.

MedMen argued in court that Ascend was using “political pressure and undue influence to force” the state board’s approval.

But attorney Mylan Denerstein, who is representing Ascend, said Thursday that counsel for MedMen has agreed to withdraw that allegation.

“After we provided documentary evidence proving Medmen’s assertions were demonstrably wrong, they indicated they will withdraw their false allegations,” Denerstein said.

Court filings didn’t show MedMen had withdrawn its allegations as of Tuesday morning. MedMen didn’t immediately respond to request for comment Tuesday.

MedMen filed a counterclaim last month arguing Ascend Wellness executives attended a Manhattan fundraiser for Hochul, a Democrat, and met with state officials two days later on Dec. 10 — days before the state cannabis control board approved its deal with MedMen on Dec. 16.

But Denerstein said court records and hotel receipts prove that one of the executives was in Florida on Dec. 10, and that the other was 150 miles (240 kilometers) away the day of the Dec. 8 fundraiser.

“What’s particularly outrageous about this is they are basically making up a story because they have seller’s remorse,” Denerstein said.

The deal would have provided Ascend Wellness with one of just 10 medical marijuana licenses available in New York.

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