A company that finished near the top of the Alabama Medical Cannabis Commission’s application scoring process pushed back on reports that a controversial Russian billionaire was involved with the company, and said its ties to an Alabama business were legitimate.
Last week, APR, citing stories from Vice News and multiple financial news outlets, reported that Curaleaf, whose subsidiary 3 Notch Roots LLC., finished eighth in AMCC scoring – just missing an Alabama license in the second round of scoring – had benefited from more than $200 million in funding from Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich, who has been sanctioned by the U.S. government.
But company spokesperson Tracy Brady, in a response to APR’s report, called that “old news” and said Abramovich had no ownership or influence in the company.
“This is old news, and that individual has no stake in Curaleaf,” Brady said. “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.”
The involvement of Abramovich with Curaleaf was first reported by Vice News, which pulled the information from leaked documents that showed the billionaire dumped hundreds of millions of dollars into the U.S. weed market between 2015 and 2021. The report stated Curaleaf, then named Palliatech, received some $225 million in those years.
Curaleaf was ultimately awarded a Massachusetts cannabis license in 2019, but WGBH-TV in Boston reported in March that state regulators were conducting an “ongoing investigation” into Curaleaf and potential ties to Abramovich. The WGBH report said that Massachusetts state regulators opened the investigation last January and noted that Connecticut and Vermont launched similar investigations.
Regardless, the company has held a Massachusetts license to operate a number of stores in the state for the past four years, and it operates at least 146 marijuana stores across the country. It is generally regarded as the largest legal weed company in America.
Which made its partnership with a small, family-owned construction business, Carter’s Contracting, in Andalusia somewhat mysterious, as well. The mystery only grew when it became known that Mertha Carter, the owner of Carter Contracting, passed away in March, a few months prior to the AMCC awarding licenses.
But Brady said there’s no conspiracy here.
“Mertha Carter sadly passed just before the deadline for altering the application and the estate was transferred to a trust,” Brady said in a statement. “The trust and estate details in the will were not presented until after the filing update deadline. Carter’s Contracting, formerly known as Carter and Sons Sod Farm, were in the sod business for many years and still hold a horticultural license. Three Notch Roots was established before her death and is in Carter’s name.”
Additionally, a number of interested parties in the AMCC licensing process had quietly raised questions about how Carter had qualified for a minority applicant status – believing that the Commission had mistakenly provided the status because Carter was a female owner. But Brady said Carter was a member of the Ma Chis Lower Creek Tribe of Alabama, and as a Native American qualified for Eight-A minority status.