Suspended Dispensary Owner Asks Regulators For License Back At Hearing

The owner of Elev8 in Athol told the Cannabis Control Commission: “It’s hard for me to separate my personal life from my business life and I kind of got in trouble. I owned up to it, I’m back at work—you see I have my tie on.”

After employees of the Athol pot shop Elev8 blew whistles about erratic and abusive behavior by the owner and apparent violations of state regulations, in February 2023 the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission issued the business a “Notice of Intent to Limit Sales of Marijuana and Marijuana Products to … due to substantial noncompliance with Commission laws.” At the time, regulators “identified ten substantial violations of Commission regulations,” and “mandated [Elev8] take corrective action to address each of the deficiencies by March 9, 2023.”

After the warning, things only got worse. According to CCC documentation, owner Seun Adedeji fired employees who reported him to regulators, spurring the “General Manager of the Athol retail store [to resign] in protest of Mr. Adedeji’s conduct towards and termination of the Interim Chief Executive Officer.” Meanwhile, at an Elev8 dispensary he operated all the way across the country, the “General Manager of the Oregon retail store and all Oregon retail staff also resigned.”

And that’s when shit went off the rails. “On March 22, 2023, Mr. Adedeji informed [CCC] Enforcement staff that [the] ‘store is closed, we are fully compliant ccc recording [sic] regulation. Temporarily closed. Business decision as we charter blue ocean [wave emoji].’” Later the same day, the owner “recorded and posted a five-minute video on his Instagram account” about the situation. Highlights, as documented by the CCC, include:

  • Mr. Adedeji stated that Athol retail store was open for business and indicated that he was there alone. Mr. Adedeji shouted “and for my all old employees, if you step on my fucking property without my permission, bro, on god, you will feel it”;

  • Mr. Adedeji continued, “goofy ass people fucking, fucking with my business, don’t ever fuck with my business. Y’all goofy ass boy. I’ll put a bounty on you…on god, if you ever fuck with me. Fuck with my business, Ima dog you. Ima dog you. Ima fuck you, you fuck with my business, I would dog you” and then said “bang, bang” and made a hand gesture imitating a hand gun;

  • Mr. Adedeji also yelled “you touch my business, I will kill you.” Mr. Adedeji then paused and said “no, boy. I will not kill you. You fuck with me I’m gonna come for your everybody. Your whole family tree” and again imitated the sound of a gun being fired;

  • Mr. Adedeji used the phrase “catch these ones” twice and “I will fuck you” numerous times and shouted if he catches anyone, he will “dog you” and to not ever disrespect him and that there “ain’t no way you can run, I will find you and I will dog you”;

  • Mr. Adedeji again warned staff not to “come on [his] property if you are not here to work bitch.” Mr. Adedeji also stated “I pay your bills and you got the nerve to disrespect me bitch. I’ll dog you and everybody else. Disrespect me, hoe” and if “anybody got a problem, pull the fuck up, gang.”

Following that show on social media, on March 24 the CCC issued a summary suspension order of “all agent registrations associated with [Elev8] … and the cessation of all licensed operations” after “having determined that” the company, “through the acts of its majority owner, poses an immediate or serious threat to the public health, safety, or welfare.” With his store shuttered, Adedeji disappeared for more than five months—until showing up at a CCC hearing last Friday.

“I had a personal life incident that happened because I did go through a divorce,” the Elev8 owner said to commissioners. “It’s hard for me to separate my personal life from my business life and I kind of got in trouble. I owned up to it, I’m back at work—you see I have my tie on.”

The hearing was intended for stakeholders to give comments on draft language for rules about municipal equity and Host Community Agreements, but Adedeji used his testimony to plead for his license back. After doing some crowd work, during which he said his “dancing is impeccable” since his hiatus and offered Commissioner Bruce Stebbins a “good day,” he got to business.

“What is the step by step process [to reopening]?” Adedeji asked. “We understand that we are currently suspended and we have been emailing the commission for about a day-plus now. I know you guys are extremely busy, you have existing operators who are working their butts off, and we appreciate that. I’m just a small business. I’m one man, I’m the dad of a five-year-old.”

He continued, “We have some deadlines we are looking to meet from some preferred partners and that’s one of the reasons we are wondering what is the expedited process—so we can meet our personal deadlines. Our investors looked at me and said, Hey man, how much money do you have? They didn’t say, Hey, are you okay? Do you want a hug? All they cared about was the money. We’re just looking to get open.”

That’s unlikely to happen anytime soon. As far back as April, Athol town administrators were already considering how to handle a recalcitrant Elev8, with Town Manager Shaun Suhoski telling the Selectboard: “We started looking at the local Host Community Agreement regarding what teeth we may have – or not. … It’s clear that the licensure is through the state. However, if the license is revoked or the business ceases its operations, then it would be a violation of the Host Community Agreement. We’re looking at other terms therein, too, with Town Counsel, but I don’t know if that (would require) executive session or not. I want to tread lightly.”

Suhoski was actually at CCC headquarters last Friday too, and testified shortly before Adedeji stepped up. The Athol manager was there to speak about proposed changes to Host Community Agreements in general, but his comments related to tools at a municipality’s disposal to negotiate with cannabis businesses, compliant or otherwise. Meanwhile, back in Athol, selectboard members addressed the Elev8 case directly at their meeting last Tuesday—three days before Adedeji showed up at the CCC. As the Athol Daily News reported:

Elev8 owner Seun Adedeji appeared before the Selectboard Tuesday night to bring town officials up to date on the status of the marijuana retail business, which has been closed for nearly six months.

Adedeji was arrested by the Athol Police Department on March 23 after failing to appear in court six days earlier to answer to charges of wanton and lascivious conduct and indecent exposure. His defense attorney at the time was granted her request to have Adedeji evaluated for competence.

Adedeji made it clear to the board on Tuesday that his intention is to re-open the Main Street business.

Board member Rebecca Bialecki wanted to know if cannabis is still being stored at Elev8, and asked if the product has a shelf life. Adedeji responded that the purpose of his appearance before the board was not to answer questions but simply to provide an update on the status of the business. He did say, however, that Elev8 is complying with standards set by the industry.

[Board Member Brian] Dodge suggested that the board should hear from “higher ups” on Elev8’s corporate ladder, if there are any, should a hearing be scheduled. Elev8 is a corporation with several locations in Massachusetts and Oregon. Barrett said that, in his research, it appears Adedeji is the corporation’s principal.

Dodge then made a motion that the board hold a hearing in 30 days. If, by that time, the town has not received an update from the CCC, the board would have the opportunity to vote on whether or not to revoke the host community agreement with Elev8. After further discussion, the board voted to hold a hearing on Oct. 17.