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Hochul needs to answer subpoena on cannabis firm deal: judge

Gov. Kathy Hochul will need to answer a subpoena to shed light on whether her office pushed state regulators to approve a cannabis company merger at the urging of a campaign contributor, a State Supreme Court judge ruled Wednesday afternoon. Her office had opposed the subpoena. Cannabis retailer MedMen is seeking evidence that Hochul and her office forced the company to sell its New York operations. Hochul’s office has strongly denied the allegation. Last month, MedMen alleged in New York State Supreme Court that Hochul’s administration used improper influence in December to help recreational pot seller Ascend Wellness seal its $75 million deal to buy a majority of the MedMen marijuana dispensary chain’s New York business. MedMen alleges the Office of Cannabis Management abruptly fast-tracked the acquisition approval just in time to meet a deadline after initially stating it would take months. The suit claims that Hochul’s office pushed regulators to OK the deal just days after one of Ascend’s executives attended a Dec. 8 fundraiser for Hochul’s reelection campaign. A year ago, MedMen had agreed to sell its New York operations to Ascend. But those New York operations have likely risen in value during the last few months since Hochul has fast-tracked the rollout of cannabis retailers. So MedMen likely wanted the deal to expire, which it would have on Jan. 1 if state officials hadn’t taken action. MedMen wants to see any communications that exist between Hochul’s office and Ascend concerning the Cannabis Control Board — and communications between her office and the Cannabis Board. The Post did find that Ascend made three contributions to Friends for Kathy Hochul on Oct. 28, totaling $15,000, according to the New York State Board of Elections. There is some dispute about whether Ascend President Andrew Brown was at the Dec. 8 Hochul fundraising event. A spokesman for law firm Feuerstein Kulick, which arranged the Hochul fundraiser, has told The Post that Ascend’s Brown was not at the event.

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