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Pot retailer denies executives pressured state officials

February 22, 2022 GMT
FILE — An employee of MedMen walks into the dispensary of their store on New York's Fifth Avenue, April 20, 2018. MedMen owns and operates licensed cannabis facilities in cultivation, manufacturing and retail. New York-based Ascend Wellness is waging a legal battle in state court against cannabis company MedMen. The lawsuit, launched in January, argues MedMen failed to follow through on a $75 million deal to sell its New York operations to Ascend Wellness.(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
FILE — An employee of MedMen walks into the dispensary of their store on New York's Fifth Avenue, April 20, 2018. MedMen owns and operates licensed cannabis facilities in cultivation, manufacturing and retail. New York-based Ascend Wellness is waging a legal battle in state court against cannabis company MedMen. The lawsuit, launched in January, argues MedMen failed to follow through on a $75 million deal to sell its New York operations to Ascend Wellness.(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
FILE — An employee of MedMen walks into the dispensary of their store on New York's Fifth Avenue, April 20, 2018. MedMen owns and operates licensed cannabis facilities in cultivation, manufacturing and retail. New York-based Ascend Wellness is waging a legal battle in state court against cannabis company MedMen. The lawsuit, launched in January, argues MedMen failed to follow through on a $75 million deal to sell its New York operations to Ascend Wellness.(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
FILE — An employee of MedMen walks into the dispensary of their store on New York's Fifth Avenue, April 20, 2018. MedMen owns and operates licensed cannabis facilities in cultivation, manufacturing and retail. New York-based Ascend Wellness is waging a legal battle in state court against cannabis company MedMen. The lawsuit, launched in January, argues MedMen failed to follow through on a $75 million deal to sell its New York operations to Ascend Wellness.(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)
FILE — An employee of MedMen walks into the dispensary of their store on New York's Fifth Avenue, April 20, 2018. MedMen owns and operates licensed cannabis facilities in cultivation, manufacturing and retail. New York-based Ascend Wellness is waging a legal battle in state court against cannabis company MedMen. The lawsuit, launched in January, argues MedMen failed to follow through on a $75 million deal to sell its New York operations to Ascend Wellness.(AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — 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.

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Court filings didn’t show MedMen had withdrawn its allegations as of Tuesday morning.

Medmen attorney Alex Spiro said the company will amend its filings to remove “very specific allegations that are the subject of the very carefully worded and very limited denials by Ascend and the governor’s office.”

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. Hochul’s office has also denied the Dec. 10 meeting took place, while the Manhattan-based firm that hosted the Dec. 8 fundraiser said the Ascend executive didn’t attend.

“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.