Marijuana MSO Cresco Labs alleges GTI poached key employee

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A lawsuit filed in Illinois by Chicago-based marijuana multistate operator Cresco Labs alleges rival Green Thumb Industries (GTI) stole one of its high-level employees.

Chicago-based GTI said it “vehemently denies the claims made in the complaint and will vigorously defend itself in court.”

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Cresco alleges in the lawsuit, filed in Cook County court, that:

  • Christopher Tonge, its former director of technical services, took a similar job at GTI this past spring.
  • Tonge, a chemist by training, had signed an employment agreement with a noncompete clause.
  • Tonge was recruited by Matt Ingram, another former Cresco employee who is now GTI’s senior vice president of operations.
  • Tonge breached his employment agreement and that Ingram and Green Thumb were involved.
  • Ingram is reaching out to other Cresco employees attempting to poach them.

In the lawsuit, Cresco said “Tonge worked at Cresco Labs’ Chicago headquarters for almost three years as the Director of Technical Services, where he was well-compensated, with a salary in excess of six figures and stock options.”

The suit said the director of technical services is “focused on solving issues within Cresco Labs’ manufacturing process and figuring out ways to improve them.”

The position requires an advanced degree in chemistry, or a bachelor’s degree in chemistry.

Cresco is seeking damages and an injunction to enforce Tonge’s employment contract.

The lawsuit was filed by Cresco Labs subsidiary JDRC Managed Services LLC and names Tonge, Ingram and GTI-Clinic Illinois Holdings LLC, a GTI subsidiary.

The lawsuit comes as Biden administration antitrust regulators have proposed to largely ban the use of noncompete clauses.

In a statement emailed to MJBizDaily, GTI said Cresco’s lawsuit “is aimed at preventing a former non-executive Cresco employee from finding a suitable career in the cannabis industry.”

“Instead of investing to retain current employees or support former employees through their transition following a recent sizable layoff, Cresco is spending money on lawyers to monitor and sue its former employees for finding new jobs,” the statement added.

“This move is not only distasteful to their former employees looking to continue their careers in the cannabis industry, but also a total waste of Cresco’s capital and resources.”

In 2022, Green Thumb reported $1 billion in revenue and Cresco Labs reported $843 million.