Maryland Latest State Ensnared in California Lawyer’s Web of Social Equity Cannabis Lawsuits

A California lawyer, Jeffrey Jensen, is challenging Maryland’s cannabis social equity program, arguing that its state residency requirement is unconstitutional, potentially impacting licensing processes similar to previous cases in other states.

Full story after the jump.

Editor’s note: this article was written by LJ Dawson for The Outlaw Report, and has been republished with permission.

Maryland is the most recent victim of a California lawyer and cannabis entrepreneur’s serial suing of state cannabis social equity programs.

Jeffrey Jensen filed a lawsuit on behalf of his wife Justyna Jensen, both of whom live in Pasadena, California. Jensen claims that the Maryland Cannabis Administration’s requirement of state residency to qualify for social equity is unconstitutional.

Jensen is using the dormant commerce clause of the constitution to allege that Maryland is discriminating against Justyna because she is an out-of-state resident. Though her university met the requirements for social equity applicants with 40% of the individuals qualifying to receive a Pell Grant, she was denied because the university was in California not Maryland.

MCA has until Feb. 20, 2024 to file a response in court to the lawsuit. Jensen has used the dormant commerce clause to file lawsuits elsewhere.

His Maryland case is one of at least six lawsuits he filed in the last two years in four states. He filed suits under similar allegations in California, Washington and New York.

His first lawsuit in New York was settled out of court, and he successfully secured a license in his settlement. But not before causing a months-long injunction or halt of licensing in 2022. This pause caused an already beleaguered New York market to lose even more valuable time in its attempt to launch.

Early this February, a federal New York judge rejected Jensen’s second case and plea for another licensing injunction. She claimed that the public interest of letting state-legal cannabis businesses launch overshadowed the lawsuit’s concerns.

In all his lawsuits in New York and Washington, Jensen is actually 49% owner of the companies. It is not yet clear how much he owns of his wife’s company in Maryland that was denied a license in December 2023.

Both Mr. Jensen and Mrs. Jensen applied together with an arm of Cookies’ corporations and L.A. based Blaqstar for a retail cannabis license in Pasadena, California. According to that 2019 cannabis retail application, Mrs. Jensen, the Maryland plaintiff, grew up in Poland and immigrated to America in 2002 to attend graduate school for financing. Mr. Jensen is self-described as being involved in cannabis law since 2016 and passionate about social inequity.

A judge denied Jeffrey Jensen’s Washington state injunction in January. He made similar claims of discrimination against out-of-state residents. However, no final order has been delivered as Jensen is attempting to pursue litigation specifically related to his company’s license.

He filed the lawsuit on behalf of a Michigan cannabis entrepreneur, Kenneth Gay, who is also his partner in business and plaintiff in separate New York and California lawsuits. Gay and Jensen own Peridot Tree WA INC, the California based cannabis company and plaintiff in the Washington lawsuit.

Jensen appears to benefit if he wins any of these cases as a significant owner of several of the businesses. New York filings accused him of being in “sole control” of the companies applying for cannabis licenses in New York. Maryland’s cannabis community will undoubtedly await the MCA’s response with much anticipation, knowing that Jensen’s lawsuit could potentially cause a delay in Maryland’s licensing.

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