Update: On Friday, Curaleaf spokesperson Tracy Brady provided the following response:
“This is old news, and that individual has no stake in Curaleaf. Massachusetts regulators already closed an inquiry into this precise issue after concluding what we’ve maintained consistently; no undisclosed controlling or ownership interests by any foreign investor exists and Curaleaf complied with all relevant rules and regulations.”
With plenty of drama and intrigue, arguing and strange occurrences, seemingly the only thing the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission’s initial licensing process has lacked is a scandal involving Russian oligarchs.
On Tuesday, APR was provided documents showing that one of the top scoring companies for an integrated cannabis license, 3 Notch Roots LLC., is partially owned by a man with alleged ties to a U.S.-sanctioned Russian oligarch who is close friends with Russian President Vladamir Putin.
On application paperwork, under the “Ownership Resume” portion, 3 Notch Roots lists Andrey Blokh, who is also part owner of Curaleaf, one of the country’s top cannabis companies. Blokh has an impressive cannabis portfolio, and Forbes credits him with owning more than 21 percent of the entire American cannabis market. Curaleaf chairman Boris Johnson is also part of the ownership group of 3 Notch Roots.
But more interesting is Blokh’s ties to Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who has been sanctioned by the European Union, the UK and the United States following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Last year, the U.S. attempted to seize Abramovich’s yacht and other assets.
A report on Vice News in February cited leaked documents showing Abramovich’s ties to Curaleaf and noted that the billionaire had essentially bankrolled the entire U.S. cannabis industry, investing more than $130 million and offering another $194 million in loans to weed companies between 2016 and 2018. The leaked documents show Abramovich provided more than $200 million to Curaleaf, formerly known as Palliatech. Vice and Barron’s, which analyzed the leaked documents and tracked the financial reports, noted that Abramovich went to great lengths to hide his investments in the American weed industry.
3 Notch Roots appears to be a subsidiary of Curaleaf, which owns at least 140 cannabis stores across the country and is the largest licensed marijuana company in the world, according to Vice.
Attempts to reach either Curaleaf or 3 Notch Roots were unsuccessful on Tuesday.
APR also attempted to contact the 3 Notch Roots’ listed owner in Alabama. The company is listed as a minority applicant, and the documents list Mertha Carter as its minority owner (with 51 percent) through her sole shareholder status of Carter’s Contracting Services in Andalusia.
However, an obituary for Carter shows that she passed away in March, while applicants were still submitting applications for an Alabama license.
It’s unclear how Carter, whose company is primarily involved in construction and excavation, became involved with a cannabis company with at least some backing tied to Russian billionaires.
Also curious is how 3 Notch Roots managed to score so highly – landing in the eighth spot (out of 38 applicants) and only 5 points (out of nearly 3,800) behind the final applicant to receive a license in June’s second round of awards.
The company’s application, available online at the AMCC website, is almost entirely redacted, which is allowed by the AMCC, and there is very little available information about the company.
On its scoring sheet, AMCC shows that 3 Notch Root had issues with the resumes of ownership, with records indicating proof of residency in the state and with commercial horticulture experience. Yet, despite those issues, questionable ownership ties and a majority, Alabama resident owner who died prior to the final scoring, the company still managed to outscore 30 other applicants.