A Portland marijuana dispensary has become the first cannabis business to be investigated for fraud since Oregon legalized weed in 2014.
Cannacea has shut its doors after it was learned that Oregon never issued a medical dispensary license to the business.
Tisha Siler, Cannacea’s founder, came to Oregon in 2014 to open the business after she got what she thought was a letter welcoming her to open up shop, reports Shaunee Flowers at Inquisitr.
It turns out Siler, 45, wasn’t licensed at all, after paying $25,000 to Green Rush Consulting, despite receiving an official-looking letter that said she had been awarded seven dispensary licenses.
The Oregon Department of Health began investigating Siler last year; that’s when it learned that the letter is fake, and that Green Rush Consulting has some real explaining to do.
The letter gushed that Siler, a California pot grower, would be a “valuable asset” to Oregon. The problem was that everything about the letter was fake, right down to its official-appearing letterhead, reports Noelle Crombie at The Oregonian.
One Canadian investor claimed he’d sunk $168,000 into the doomed enterprise after viewing the letter. At least three other investors were given material that included false claims about the business; according to the state’s investigation, it’s not clear how many of them made investments based on the bogus information.
Relationships went sideways between Siler and many of the investors she had hoped would bankroll her operation, according to The Oregonian. “The venture spiraled into nasty accusations, multiple court claims against Siler and her dispensary and demands from investors that she return their money, according to court documents and the state’s investigative file on the case released to The Oregonian/OregonLive in response to a public records request,” Crombie reports.
The exact role Green Rush Consulting played with Siler and Cannacea is being investigated.
David Jacobs, Siler’s previous contact at Green Rush has prior felony convictions for financial schemes, and beyond that, she’s accused the company of creating marketing materials with false information, in addition to the fake letter she received.Siler told visiting regulators that the letter was fake, according to investigator Dwayne Edsinga’s notes of the meeting. She said Jacobs had written it based on some questions he’d asked her. It isn’t clear from Edsinga’s notes what those questions were or how she responded to them.
Siler claimed she didn’t use the letter to drum up investors.
At one point, according to emails in the state’s file, Siler blasted Jacobs for including an award in investment materials that she said she didn’t receive.
In 2005, Jacobs was sentenced to prison by a federal judge in Oklahoma for wire fraud and identity theft for getting victims’ bank and credit card info to steal between $15,000 and $20,000, court records show. He was released in 2013, according to federal officials. By August 2014, Jacobs was working with Siler, according to emails included in the state’s investigative file.
Jacobs had become associated with Green Rush, he said, after answering a Craigslist job ad. Jacobs said he didn’t know if Green Rush’s owner was aware of his criminal history, saying there was “no reason why he should have been.”Green Rush is cooperating with the Oregon investigation, according to Katy Young, a San Francisco-based attorney representing the company. Young wouldn’t answer questions about how much Green Rush knew about Jacobs’ criminal past when it arranged for him to work with Siler, citing the investigation.
Officials with Oregon’s Office of Consumer and Business Services wouldn’t comment on their ongoing investigation into Siler and Green Rush Consulting. Speaking generally, however, agency spokesman Jake Sunderland said pot investors should exercise caution.
“Anytime there is a hot new industry, there is always room for bad actors to take advantage of the excitement around it,” Sunderland said. “The key thing is to be aware of things that sound too good to be true.”
Siler also has some very unhappy investors, now that the Portland dispensary has been shut down. She has denied any wrongdoing.
Oregon’s investigation into Siler and Green Rush continues. Siler had already been on the radar of state officialsafter she allowed a vendor to give away marijuana concentrates and joints in the dispensary parking lot on the opening day of recreational marijuana sales, violating state rules, reports The Oregonian. She paid a $2,500 fine, according to the Oregon Health Authority.
The records released to The Oregonian/OregonLive, which include more than 1,000 pages, show protracted negotiations between Siler’s former attorney and the state over what role Siler played in creating and distributing fradulent investor material and whether Siler should pay civil fines.
The state can issue a proposed order spelling out what was done wrong, and imposing a fine. The parties can either negotiate a resolution — which typically involves agreeing to a set of findings and paying a fine — or the case goes before an administrative law judge.
The person involved could potentially sign the order but not agree to the findings or deny them. The state could also conclude that no wrongdoing occurred.