Maryland cannabis dispensary company Blair Wellness Center is firing back at a disgruntled worker’s allegations according to a report on Law360. The court document filed on 6/2/2022 in the United States District Court in the District of Maryland is counter-suing former employee Kamille Jones.
Jones was employed by Blair Wellness from October 21, 2019, to November 5, 2020. Blair says that during the pandemic, it decided to restructure its business and eliminated Ms. Jones’s job as assistant inventory manager, but offered her a similar job and payment. Blair says that Jones wasn’t happy with the new job offer and began public complaints about the company. They say in their complaint, that Jones, “contacted Jazz Baker, a publisher of a cannabis blog called “Black Cannabis Matters” concerning the operations of Blair Management and Blair Wellness and concerning Mr. Blair including that: (i) in a couple of cases black managers were fired without cause;( ii) it was likely that black managers were fired because Mr. Blair suspected that they were supporters of a recent unionization effort at Blair Wellness and more.” She went on to complain that black employees were talked down to, expected to work for free in short-staffed hours, and were exploited.
Jones sued Blair Wellness and then Blair asked for the case to be dismissed. However, a judge denied the dismissal saying Jones had pointed out multiple instances of discrimination as well as pointing out a white employee who was in a similar situation but was treated better.
Workplace Theft Alleged
Blair says in its complaint that after Jones began talking publicly and negatively about the company, it rescinded its employment offer. The company also said it was going to offer her a severance package, but an audit determined she and other employees had been buying medical cannabis, but grossly undercharging each other. During the month of October 2022, the complaint stated, “For example, a portion of the transactions relating to Ms. Jones established that on October 22, 2020, she purchased $35 worth of medical cannabis for which she only paid $3.50; on September 15, 2020, she purchased $108.50 worth of medical cannabis for which she only paid $10.80; on September 10, 2020, she purchased $219.00 of medical cannabis for which she only paid $11.00; and, on September 3, 2020, she purchased $104.27 worth of medical cannabis for which she only paid $10.42.” There is video surveillance in the store that added to the theft documentation.
Blair says it is required to investigate any thefts and report them to the MMCC (Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission). The MMCC told Blair to report it to the Baltimore police. The complaint states, “As a result of the Baltimore City Police Department’s independent investigation, the Baltimore City Police Department instituted criminal charges against three Blair Management employees, including Ms. Jones.”
Jones had also on June 3, 2021, caused a temporary peace order to be issued against Mr. Blair in the District Court of Maryland for Baltimore City (Case No. 0101SP049192021). However, she was denied relief because she couldn’t prove the accusation. Blair Wellness was upset because as Jones was filing the peace order it was in the midst of negotiating a sale of the company to Cresco Labs.
In August 2021 as the accusations were flying back and forth, Cresco Labs (CSE: CL) (OTCQX: CRLBF) announced it was buying Blair Wellness. The deal was supposed to close in the fourth quarter of 2021, but in January 2022, it backed out of the deal. “We have terminated the purchase agreement with Blair Wellness due to the failure of certain closing conditions to be met prior to our specified termination date,” said Charlie Bachtell, Cresco Labs’ CEO & Co-founder. “We will continue to look for other avenues to expand our footprint in Maryland, and execute our strategy of going deep in meaningful, material states.”
Blair Goes To Prison
Likely the termination had something to do with the announcement from the Department of Justice that Matthew Blair “pleaded guilty today to payment of illegal remunerations to encourage independent marketers to refer federal health care related business to Blair’s pharmacy.” The charge was unrelated to the cannabis dispensary. It stated, “Blair, the owner and operator of a compounding pharmacy called the Blair Pharmacy, paid illegal remunerations to independent marketers to induce them to refer business to Blair Pharmacy. In order to increase prescription referrals to his pharmacy, maximize reimbursement amounts and thereby increase profits, Blair sought these independent marketers to solicit and refer prescriptions to his pharmacy.” Blair is to pay $3.1 million in restitution and in February 2022 was sentenced to one year and a day in federal prison.
Ella Blair is currently listed as the owner of Blair Wellness and the company’s website shows a diverse group of employees. It only has one location in the state. Blair is asking for $5,000 for the cost of the inventory and public relations expenses, along with other damages.