Laws Dodged at Pot Shop, Fired Exec Claims

     HACKENSACK, N.J. (CN) – A former executive claims a company that runs a Colorado marijuana dispensary lied on their license application, bought pot “clones” from unauthorized vendors and fired him for pointing out regulatory violations.
     Jerry Castoria sued Berlin International Colorado (BIC), Trophy Hunter LLC and four Berlin executives in Bergen County, N.J., Superior Court earlier this month. He says he was hired by Berlin in July 2014, working as CFO for the Salida, Colo.-based company remotely from his home in Ridgewood, N.J.
     After Colorado legalized recreational marijuana via a public ballot question in November 2012, the state established the Marijuana Enforcement Division (MED), which is tasked with licensing and regulating the medical and retail marijuana industries in the state.
     Castoria says that he noticed Berlin violated a MED regulation shortly after he started working for the company, claiming that “[co-defendant and former CEO] Joseph Sozio signed a bogus lease with BIC manager Fred Butler falsely reflecting that he and Butler resided in a home together in the State of Colorado, when they did not.”
     Castoria alleges the lease violates a requirement under the Colorado Business Marijuana License Application that states a license holder must be a resident of the state. When he raised the issue, Sozio “became indignant and fearfully stated that Castoria might ‘use it against him,”” according to the Feb. 9 complaint.
     Later, in January 2015, Castoria says he met with Berlin CEO Sterling Stoudenmire in New York City at Trophy Hunter’s offices where he was “informed that Stoudenmire intended on purchasing a brand of marijuana clones from an unauthorized or unlicensed vendor,” which Castoria asserts also violates MED rules.
     Despite Castoria claiming he advised against it, Stoudenmire allegedly acquired the unlicensed pot clones anyway. Castoria asked Stoudenmire what he intended to do about the illegally purchased clones, which Stoudenmire told him would be “destroyed,” the lawsuit states.
     Castoria discovered later that month that “Stoudenmire had been covering up the purchase of illegal clones by having the unauthorized/unlicensed vendor invoice BIC for consulting fees and not [for] the sale of clones,” according to the complaint.
     Sorio, when confronted by Castoria about that issue, allegedly told him that he would “have the unlawful purchase of clones properly addressed.”
     However, Castoria’s says BIC fired him less than a week later, a decision he claims was made “in retaliation of his disclosing and objecting to BIC and Stoudenmire purchasing marijuana clones from an unauthorized and/or unlicensed seller.”
     Berlin International did not respond to an emailed request for comment Wednesday afternoon, while Trophy Hunter could not be reached for comment.
     Castoria seeks compensatory and punitive damages for violations of New Jersey’s Conscientious Employee Retaliation Act. He is representing himself.

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