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Cannabis company to withdraw accusation of political impropriety, lawyer says

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In the latest twist of a court battle between two cannabis companies over a soured licensing deal, the cloud of alleged political misconduct seems to have blown over.

Lawyers with cannabis distributor Ascend Wellness Holdings said that its legal rival MedMen has indicated it will withdraw its allegations that Ascend executives put political pressure on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s administration to approve a medical marijuana license transfer between the companies.

Ascend, a cannabis operator hoping to set up operations in New York, filed a lawsuit in state court in January against MedMen, a multi-state cannabis company, that claimed the defendant had not fulfilled a contract to hand over $73 million worth of in-state licensed operations.

In response, MedMen filed a counterclaim at the end of January accusing Ascend of leaning on Hochul’s administration and the Office of Cannabis Management to approve the license transfer between the two companies.

After Ascend’s counsel provided evidence that conflicted with MedMen’s assertions last week, Mylan Denerstein, a lawyer representing Ascend, said that counsel for MedMen has agreed to withdraw that allegation.

“Like any house of cards, MedMen’s claims collapsed when exposed to the slightest scrutiny. Ascend will continue to correct the record and looks forward to entering New York’s cannabis market once its rights are vindicated in court,” Denerstein said in a statement to amNY.

MedMen had accused Ascend’s president Andrew Brown of attending a fundraiser for Hochul on Dec. 8, and its CEO Abner Kurtin of meeting with her secretary on Dec. 10 to put pressure on the state to finalize the deal between the two companies.

Ascend responded last week in its motion to dismiss the counter suit that MedMen’s narrative about political pressure is made up. It argued that MedMen’s claims were an attempt to kill the deal after it got a case of “seller’s remorse” and hoped “to strike a better deal with a new buyer.”

As evidence to its counterclaim last week, Ascend submitted court logs and a hotel receipt that show Brown providing legal counsel and staying at a hotel in Albany on the day that MedMen accused him of attending the Manhattan fundraiser. It also submitted a receipt that showed Kurtin to be in Florida the day of the other alleged meeting.

A spokesperson from Gov. Hochul’s administration has also called MedMen’s accusations false. 

MedMen did not respond to a request for comment.

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