Athol Selectboard mulls revoking community agreement with Elev8 Cannabis

  • Elev8 Cannabis dispensary on Main Street in Athol. STAFF FILE PHOTO

For the Athol Daily News
Published: 9/6/2023 5:38:56 PM
Modified: 9/6/2023 5:39:01 PM

ATHOL — The Selectboard has set an Oct. 17 hearing on whether to revoke Athol’s host community agreement with Elev8 Cannabis.

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. On March 24, the state’s Cannabis Control Commission issued a Summary Suspension Order of the company’s state license following an investigation that found Adedeji posed a threat to public safety.

The order required the immediate cessation of operations associated with Elev8’s Athol location and provisional licenses in Williamstown and Orange.

Prior to Adedeji’s presentation, Town Manager Shaun Suhoski told the board he had been on a phone call with town counsel and the state Cannabis Control Commission. He said the license remains in the same suspended category, as it was back in March. As of Wednesday, there is no appeal or other action pending before the state.

“The Host Community Agreement between the town and the business remains in effect, but there is a provision in there that, if (the business) stops operating or ceases, then the town could look to nullify that agreement,” Suhoski said. “So, right now, the host community agreement remains as it was, the state license is suspended.”

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.

“One of the things we want to do once we get back open,” he said, “is to really cater to young adults. We have a huge opportunity. We didn’t want to just come here and say, ‘Hey, let’s make money.’ We really wanted to build an authentic relationship with (the community).”

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.

“Once we do an inventory,” he said, “it will give us an overview of what has expired, what we need to terminate, and what we can continue to sell.”

“What can we do at this point?” asked board member Brian Dodge. “Does the board want to wait for recommendations from the Cannabis Control Commission? Do we want to act on our host community agreement, for a suspension or revocation? Or do we just want to wait until the state comes down and says, ‘We’re going to give him is license back?’”

With that, board Chair Andy Sujdak asked Town Counsel John Barrett for his recommendation.

“The question is for me,” Barrett said, addressing his comments to Adedeji, “is what steps are you taking with the CCC to get your license restored? You mentioned that you’re working with them, but could you be more particular about what things you’re doing to get your license restored? Because the host agreement does have a provision that if you’re not operating — and you’re not operating now because your license is suspended — the board can revoke the host community agreement.”

The Selectboard, Barrett explained, has been holding off on taking any action in that direction pending guidance from the CCC.

Adedeji said Elev8 is following a “step-by-step” procedure provided to him by the CCC, with an eye toward reinstatement of his license.

“We are doing the step-by-step the commission has ordered us to do,” he said. “That’s the only thing we can do, and wait for their response, as we’re staying compliant with what they’re asking us to do.”

Barrett then advised that any potential action to be taken “is up to the board. I think the original philosophy was to wait and see what was going to happen with respect to the (state) suspension.” He then added he didn’t no what consequences might follow should the board decide to revoke the host community agreement and the CCC then votes to restore Elev8’s license.

“If the board were to take any action,” he continued, “certainly you would have to give notice to Elev8 and have a hearing on the reasons for revoking the host community agreement.”

“I think we really need more time to put together information to answer the detailed questions surrounding the agreement,” Suhoki said. “I’m happy to work with John (Barrett) and Seun as well, to see where the business is headed with the CCC. I’d be happy to put that information together so that we have a clear roadmap as to where we stand on finances, on the language of the agreement. Then, if the board were to schedule a hearing on the host community agreement, we’d have the information before us, and the owner of the business would have the information as well so that he could prepare for a hearing.”

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.

“If, by that meeting, we do not move forward on any point,” said Dodge, “I will make a motion to revoke.”

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