Regulators in Oregon are investigating Portland dispensary Cannacea and its CEO, Tisha Siler, after it was revealed that materials used to attract investors to the company contained multiple false claims. Investors committed hundreds of thousands of dollars before the scheme was revealed.
With so much riding on personal connections and reputation, wise investors must take steps to ensure that they are putting their trust and money in safe hands. Don't just take it from us: Green Rush Consulting, which maintains that it is also a victim in this fraud, said the following in a press release:
"White-collar crime in this industry is a threat to all of us, and we need to perform due diligence in every aspect of our business operations in order to avoid it and help prevent it."
Cannacea was a tempting opportunity for investors hoping to profit from the "green rush": CEO Tisha Siler's letter confirming that she had licenses to operate up to seven dispensaries in Oregon suggested that the company had lots of room to grow into a profitable business.
But by mid-2016, Cannacea had shut down, and Siler was accused of forging the documents that claimed she could operate seven dispensaries. Instead, state authorities said, materials given to prospective investors contained many "inaccuracies and outright falsehoods" about Siler.
Siler maintains that she didn't create the materials given to investors, pointing instead to David Jacobs, a contractor for Green Rush Consulting, which Siler retained to help her find investors. (Read Green Rush's response to these accusations here.)
Due Diligence Protects Investments
Pre-investment due diligence would have revealed major red flags regarding Cannacea, Siler, and Jacobs. At a minimum, cover the following:
- Licenses: Speak with the relevant regulators to confirm licenses. Leafly has a good guide describing how you can do this yourself.
- Education: Degrees can often be confirmed directly with a university registrar.
- Reputation: Research could have led investors to a website created in 2013 that alleges that Siler and Garrett Siler used a home in California as a marijuana growing and processing facility without the consent of their landlords. If the entrepreneur doesn't have much of a public profile, ask for references, then ask those references for more references.
Savvy investors should also confirm the integrity of any middlemen involved in an investment. In this case, searches of criminal records would have found that David Jacobs had a prior conviction for fraud and identity theft.
Whether Siler is an innocent victim herself, as she claims, or actively duped investors, the lesson is clear: The cannabis industry is vulnerable to fraud, and knowing as much as you can about those you're trusting with your money and reputation is wise.