The Cannabiz Media team has been researching the businesses, professionals and products that make up the Cannabiz economy. These combination of these entities is creating the economic juggernaut that regulators, investors, vendors and entrepreneurs are transfixed by.
If you combine this economic growth with the mellow, counterculture, friendly vibe that many people attribute to the industry, you get a halcyon image of lots of happy people making lots of money. However, our research turned up evidence of some hardball tactics as founders have been removed from the businesses they started or where people turned on their partners. Here are a few examples:
Curaleaf – Eileen Konieczny, a former Curaleaf employee filed a lawsuit against the medical marijuana-growing company claiming she was wrongfully ousted from the business she helped found. She said she was excluded from involvement with Curaleaf near the end of May 2014 and terminated on Aug. 12 2014, when Curaleaf was nearing the initial production phase of its marijuana-growing operation. Hartford Courant
CannLabs – The CannLabs Board of Directors terminated the employment agreement of Genifer Murray “For Cause” as a result of certain breaches of fiduciary duties by Ms. Murray. The Board determined that such breaches advanced Ms. Murray’s own personal interests over the interests of the Company and its shareholders. SEC Filing
Wellness Connection of Maine – A lawsuit filed in 2011 and settled in 2012 alleged that Becky DeKeuster while working for Berkeley as New England expansion director, used Berkeley’s proprietary information to negotiate a financing deal between Northeast and ex-NBA player Cuttino Mobley. It said DeKeuster signed a letter of intent with Mobley in February 2011 and resigned from Berkeley days later, cutting the California group out of the Maine medical marijuana market. Portland Press Herald
Compassionate Care Center — Karen Barski, a co-founder of Compassionate Care Center was initially a backer of this dispensary but her license status is now inactive. Ms. Barski is also no longer a Dispensary Facility Employee due to “Lack of Sponsorship” and her application as a Dispensary Technician is listed as “Denied”.
Perhaps these four cases are business as usual in any industry undergoing rapid change. Even if that is the case, it is always helpful to learn this background as you choose companies to sell to, partner with or invest in. At Cannabiz Media, we rely on primary source materials from regulators, courthouses, and the entities themselves to present as complete a picture as possible of the businesses, professionals and products in this industry. We have also learned that people in this industry are resilient and easily cross borders to set up shop elsewhere. One company that did not receive a Connecticut license was able to secure one in New Jersey while Eileen Konieczny appears to have found opportunity in New York.
The interactions of Cannabiz professionals, businesses and products is likely to create both fortunes and infighting, so we recommend doing thorough research as the litigation and terminations are important data points as you inspect your partners and investments.
Ed Keating is a co-founder of Cannabiz Media and oversees our data research and government relations efforts. He has spent his whole career working with and advising information companies in the compliance space. Ed has overseen complex multijurisdictional product lines in the securities, corporate, UCC, safety, environmental and human resource markets and focuses on workflow products. Ed has spent the last twenty five years in the information industry. During that time he has worked for both startup and established information companies where he has led marketing, product management and sales organizations. These companies include Wolters Kluwer/Commerce Clearing House, CT Corporation, EDGAR Online and Business & Legal Reports. At Cannabiz Media Ed enjoys the challenge of working with regulators across the country as he and his team gather corporate, financial, and license information to track the people, products and businesses in the cannabis economy. Ed graduated from Hamilton College and received his MBA from the Kellogg School at Northwestern University. He has been active with the Software & Information Industry Association for his whole career and managed the Content Division for six years. He’s was recently a Trustee at the Country School in Madison CT and a Little League Coach for seven years.