A Colorado hemp company has filed a lawsuit in a Denver district court alleging a conspiracy by Gov. Jared Polis, other state officials, and individual hemp stakeholders the company says damaged its business.
Longmont-based BoCo Farms alleges bid-rigging in the awarding of a contract by the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA) to Marijuana Policy Group (MPG), a Denver-based consultancy. MPG was awarded the contract in 2020 under the Colorado Hemp Advancement and Management Plan (CHAMP) program, an initiative designed to advance development of the state’s hemp sector.
The lawsuit, filed last month, further alleges that state officials, MPG representatives and specific Colorado industry players engaged in defamation, slander and libel.
BoCo Farms and Grant Orvis, the company’s CEO and president, are both claimants in the challenge to the contract, which assigned MPG to develop a Hemp Center of Excellence under CHAMP. The suit, filed Feb. 8, grew out of a grass-roots initiative launched in July 2020 that first flagged the matter of the CDA-MPG agreement.
BoCo and Orvis were losers in the state bidding, which “all Defendants, combined and/or conspired to interfere with, reduce and eliminate competitions for, and thereby rig,” the 125-page lawsuit claims.
“BoCo and Orvis have been systematically attacked and damaged by the Defendants in willful and wanton disregard to their life, livelihood, and professional career,” according to the lawsuit, which recounts voluminous emails and other correspondence among the defendants it says were part of a conspiracy.
In addition to Polis, those named as defendants are:
- Salmeron Barnes, managing partner at MPG;
- Christopher Beall, a former Colorado Deputy Attorney General;
- Morris Beegle, owner of WAFBA, Colorado Hemp Company, NoCo Hemp Expo and other trade shows;
- Wondirad Gebru, Director of the Plant Industry Division at CDA;
- Hollis Glenn, Director of Inspection and Consumer Services Division at CDA;
- Kate Greenberg, a CDA Commissioner;
- Daniel Huse, a former Procurement Director at CDA;
- Courtney Krause, deputy legal counsel for Polis;
- Ed Lehrburger, former chairman of the Colorado Hemp Advisory Committee;
- Adam Orens, owner of MPG;
- Laura Pottorff, former Plant Health and Certification Section Chief at CDA;
- Clinton Saloga, an MPG employee;
- Ean Seeb, a special advisor to Polis on Cannabis;
- Billy Seiber, a Senior Assistant Attorney General representing CDA;
- Steve Silverman, a CDA deputy commissioner.
BoCo and Orvis do not request specific monetary awards in the lawsuit, suggesting they seek “an amount to be proven at trial, post-judgment interest on all damages awarded at trial, costs and attorneys’ fees . . . and any other relief the Court deems just and proper.”
The claimants have requested a jury trial.