Cannabis retailer MedMen is seeking to subpoena New York Gov. Kathy Hochul’s (D) office in a lawsuit that alleges the administration used its influence to help Ascend Wellness purchase MedMen for $75 million as MedMen was set to end the deal, the New York Post reports.
In the state Supreme Court documents outlined by the Post, MedMen claims that Hochul and her office forced MedMen to sell its New York operations as a favor to political contributors. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that Hochul and members of her administration pushed the Cannabis Control Board to approve the deal after failing to do so for nearly a year – just one day after Ascend executives allegedly attended a fundraiser for the governor’s reelection campaign. The fundraiser was hosted by Feuerstein Kulick, who is described in the lawsuit as “a major player in the field of cannabis law” who “advises companies on winning licenses from state governments,” the report says. A spokesman for Feuerstein Kulick denied to the Post that Ascend representatives were at that fundraiser.
MedMen had agreed to the deal a year ago but had sought not to move forward in the last few months as the state started the licensing process – with Hochul including $1.25 billion in cannabis-derived revenues over the next five years in her executive budget. MedMen likely wanted the deal to expire on the January 1 deadline as they now believed the $75 million was too low, the report says.
On October 28, Ascend made three donations to Friends of Kathy Hochul totaling $15,000, according to state Board of Elections data outlined by the Post. Two days after the fundraising event, Hochul’s secretary Karen Persichilli Keogh and two other aides met with Ascend CEO Abner Kurtin and other company representatives, the report says. State cannabis regulators ultimately approved the deal on December 28.
A spokesperson for the governor told the Post that the “allegations are full of falsehoods, including a meeting that never took place.”
“None of the governor’s senior team members names have ever met with these individuals,” the spokesperson said in the statement.
In a statement, Ascend said, “MedMen is essentially challenging the regulators’ authority and ignoring the regulations of the state’s medical program.”
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