Were Applicants for Ontario’s Second Cannabis Lottery Gaming the System?

Published on September 5, 2019 · Last updated July 28, 2020
Jodi Jacobson/iStock

In the immediate aftermath of Ontario’s second scandal-plagued cannabis retail-license-application lottery, much discussion focused on the hundreds of applications made using a series of physical addresses associated with cannabis retailer HighLife.

However, an anonymous Reddit user posting under the handle u/AGCO_Lottery dug deeper into the applications data and found that HighLife was far from the only company taking copious advantage of the lottery’s allowance for multiple applications tied to the same “secured” real estate address.Join the Leafly Canada CommunityIn a Reddit post titled “Ballot Stuffing Prevails in 2nd Ontario Cannabis Lottery” the anonymous user found—to begin with—that there were even more applications than previously reported associated with HighLife properties.

In an infographic, the user claimed there were “well over 1,000 individuals” who made applications with HighLife-affiliated addresses.

But a separate story emerged about Toronto head shop the Friendly Stranger and LP Aphria—which last month raised $5 million in investments from LPs 48North, VIVO, and cannabis investment firm Green Acre Capital.

The capital the company raised was explicitly planned to support a rollout of adult-use cannabis stores.

Reddit user AGCO_Lottery noted Friendly Stranger owner James Jesty and members of his family are “responsible for 15 submissions via Frederick Jesty, Marilyn Jesty, [and] Stefania Jesty.”

They also noted the names Matt Shaloub and Albert Soberano, from Friendly Stranger’s recent investor Green Acre Capital—their names and names of apparent family members appeared on a total of 50 submissions.

AGCO_Lottery noted that among the applications affiliated with the properties connected to the families above, there were more than a dozen nearly sequentially numbered corporations, “as if the same lawyer or individual had filed them all at the same time for the intention of working in concert.”

In perusing the Friendly Stranger applications, AGCO_Lottery noted the name Vic Neufeld, who stepped down as CEO of Aphria in January following a difficult attack by short sellers the previous month.

Aphria helped fund the creation of Friendly Stranger’s backer Green Acre Capital’s cannabis venture fund with a $15 million investment last summer.

Along with Mr. Neufeld’s name, the AGCO_Lottery account identified the names of other Neufeld family members (Victoria Neufeld and Robert Neufeld) on applications.

“The Neufeld family accounted for 15 additional ballots. […] I believe the circle of influence of Friendly Stranger in this lottery process to be ~80 individuals [and] corporations,” AGCO_Lottery concluded.

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Jesse B. Staniforth
Jesse B. Staniforth
Jesse Staniforth reports on cannabis, food safety, and Indigenous issues. He is the former editor of WeedWeek Canada.
View Jesse B. Staniforth's articles
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