The allegations come as Ascend is suing MedMen over its efforts to terminate the acquisition agreement altogether—which MedMen announced earlier this month.
MedMen claimed in its filing that Ascend executives attended a Dec. 8 fundraiser for Gov. Kathy Hochul, then met with senior administration officials Dec. 10, days before the Cannabis Control Board approved the sale, according to court records.
The board issued its decision Dec. 16—two weeks before the deadline.
An Ascend spokesman said in a statement to Crain’s that no one from the company attended that fundraiser or met with Hochul, her administration or other senior state officials on that date.
Hazel Crampton-Hays, a spokeswoman for Hochul, also denied the claims.
“These allegations are full of falsehoods, including a meeting that never took place,” Crampton-Hays said in a statement. “None of the governor’s senior team members named here have ever met with these individuals.”
MedMen, which is based in Culver City, Calif., said in court filings that the Cannabis Control Board’s approval of the transaction is insufficient because it is “contingent on the review of the proposed investment.”
MedMen also said Richard Zahnleuter, the board’s general counsel, who had emailed the companies to clarify that the decision “constitutes final approval” for the purposes of closing the transaction, acknowledged he had been “pressured” to send the message, according to court filings.
The acquisition came at a time when MedMen was “heavily in debt,” Ascend said in its breach-of-contract lawsuit. The deal gave Ascend a way into the state’s tightly-regulated medical marijuana industry, because MedMen was already licensed.
Ascend, headquartered in Boston, operates cultivation facilities and dispensaries in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Massachusetts and New Jersey.