Boston/ Crime & Emergencies
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Published on February 21, 2024
Dispensary Owner Accuses MassCBA Head of Botching Tewksbury Pot Shop License DealSource: Unsplash/ Jeff W

A cannabis industry bigwig is in hot water after a botched bid for a pot shop license, according to a lawsuit slamming the trade group leader for a series of alleged missteps. David O'Brien, the head honcho of the Massachusetts Cannabis Business Association (MassCBA), has been accused by Mario Chiuccariello, owner of Cannavana Inc., of fumbling through what was promised as a surefire deal, as reported by Law360.

Chiuccariello claims O'Brien waltzed into his South Shore dispensary last April, uninvited and peddled a "guaranteed" license in Tewksbury, as per the Plymouth County Superior Court filings. O'Brien is accused of promising Cannavana a win through his local ties and his status at MassCBA, telling Chiuccariello, "O'Brien assured Cannavana that it was a guaranteed success because he would leverage personal connections within Tewksbury, having grown up there, and through his significant contacts as the president and CEO of the MassCBA." However, the lawsuit stated an odd caveat from O'Brien: He "could not be listed on any paperwork, or the entities obtaining the loan, for an unstated reason."

O'Brien's plan, as alleged in the court documents, involved a $180,000 loan agreement with entities Bella Luna and Carbonear, and a new player, Grace Harbour. This cash was intended to secure one of three coveted host community agreements in Tewksbury. In exchange, Cannavana was set to receive 6% of gross revenues and a 9.9% equity stake in the yet-to-be-approved dispensary.

However, the plan went up in smoke when, according to Cannavana's lawsuit, the funds were allegedly spent on activities ranging from "inappropriate and illegal purposes, such as texting minors about selling marijuana" to "attempting to smear the reputation of a local board member responsible for approving their proposed business." The actions purportedly drew the ire of Tewksbury officials, torpedoing the application. Despite promising to keep track of the funds' use, the defendants, the lawsuit says, have not provided an accounting or a timeline for repayment.

The legal entanglement now sees Cannavana seeking damages on multiple counts, including breach of contract and fraud, while also attempting to hold Nichols, Graffeo, and O'Brien personally responsible by piercing the corporate veil. Both parties' legal representation have kept tight-lipped, with Nicholas Gomes of the Law Office of Nicholas Gomes PC for Cannavana declining to comment, and no immediate response from Brendan Kelly representing Harbour Grace Tewksbury LLC. The lawsuit, filed under the case number 2483CV00129, has exposed what could be a dark side of the burgeoning Massachusetts cannabis market.