The cannabis corporation Multi-State Operator (MSO) iAnthus, which controls the Atlantic City-based license holder MPX, is being sued for workplace discrimination and mishandling operations.
Melted Pot Xtracts (MPX) won a license to operate a vertically integrated New Jersey medical cannabis cultivator, manufacturer, and dispensary in 2018. iAnthus subsequently bought them. Their operations have turned into a disaster. MPX sued iAnthus for not recognizing their control of the license. In addition, iAnthus is being sued by a man alleging that he was demoted because he is Black.
In a lawsuit filed in Monmouth County Superior Court, Shelby Brown, an African American, and a disabled veteran has accused iAnthus of demoting him because of his race.
Brown was previously the National Compliance Director for MPX. When iAnthus took over, they demoted him to a regional compliance position.
“iAnthus’ actions created working conditions so intolerable” that Brown was “compelled to resign, as any reasonable person in his position would have done,” Brown’s attorney Matthew Sheppe said.
Brown said he was the only one forced to take a test for his job.
iAnthus is a company dominated by white men.
They did not return an email with a request for comment by the time of publication.
MPX versus iAnthus
MPX was built into an MSO by the Monmouth County-based Beth Stavola after a career on Wall Street making millions. They won a license in New Jersey in 2018 after Governor Phil Murphy took over. She sold the company to iAnthus which has led to a host of problems.
After being sold to iAnthus, operations went south.
The MPX lawsuit said iAnthus tried to go behind their backs to operate the facility. They ultimately won the lawsuit against iAnthus.
Stavola refused to comment on the story.
iAnthus began falling apart in December 2019. Their CEO Hadley Ford was alleged to have misused company money. He eventually resigned due to the scandal and was replaced by New Jersey native Randy Maslow.
Initially, Ford looked like the culprit. However, Jason Adler of Gotham Green might be the real villain behind the mess.
Ford was recorded explaining that Adler wanted to renege on a deal. He said he was told, “We are going to take your company private… We are going to wipe out the public shareholders’ holders and the junior guys, and then we are going to recharge the management team.”
This has indeed occurred.
Gotham Green took control of the company in the wake of the scandal and iAnthus’ problems with money. iAnthus noted last year that Gotham Green was demanding they repay the money they owed quite drastically.
Of the 12 license holders awarded, their operation is the worst. Justice Grown is the only other license holder that has yet to open, but they were on track to open this fall after having solved issues and working with the town of Ewing in Mercer County where their dispensary will be based.
Before the Coronavirus pandemic, iAnthus and MPX were supposed to start growing in South Jersey and open in 2020. This was also before the legal fallout.
Their 1,300-square-foot facility is located near the Boardwalk in Atlantic City and S. New York Ave. It will eventually operate under the name “Be.”
Last year, they secured $11 million to finance their operations.
iAnthus versus Gotham Green
The subsequent bad blood from the takeover resulted in iAnthus suing Gotham Green in a Canadian court since they are traded on the Canadian Stock Exchange.
Gotham Green wanted to take over iAnthus after they failed to pay a debt. However, as an investment firm, they had several conflicts of interest whereby their clients compete against iAnthus in the state-legal cannabis markets. This complicated them being able to control the company.
A company called Hi-Med alleged Ford conspired with Gotham Green to trigger the default, which led to them being taken over.
The issues with the company remain ongoing.
iAnthus is trading for around 19 cents a share on the Canadian Stock Exchange.