Berkeley medical marijuana dispensary files lawsuit against former employee

Taryn Erhardt/Senior Staff
Berkeley Patients Group filed a lawsuit against a Maine-based patient group after helping the group open dispensaries.

After playing an instrumental role in helping a Maine-based patient group gain licensing for and open medical marijuana dispensaries, the Berkeley Patients Group filed a lawsuit against the Maine group and its chief executive for an alleged breach of contract, among other claims.

According to the lawsuit, which was filed with a Maine county court July 6, Maine’s Northeast Patients Group has neglected to repay several loans lent by the Berkeley group, in addition to allegedly revealing trade secrets to a competing company. None of the four dispensaries scheduled to be run by the Maine group have opened.

The court documents state that while the Northeast Patients Group understands that the monetary support provided by the Berkeley group was a loan and not a grant, it has yet to pay back the over $630,000 provided to them over the course of the last two years.

The Berkeley group has operated as a medical marijuana collective in California for over 11 years. Brad Senesac, chief marketing officer of the group, said in an email that the group cannot comment on the lawsuit due to the pending litigation.

The court documents state that Northeast’s Chief Executive Officer Rebecca DeKeuster — a former member of the Berkeley group’s Board of Directors as well as a former executive employee — was appointed to her position in Maine under a written Employment Agreement by Berkeley Patients Group.

DeKeuster was asked by the Berkeley group to move to Maine in order to help open dispensaries there, according to the court documents. She was paid a starting salary of $111,000, commencing in November of 2009. By May of 2010, her salary was increased to $125,000, according to her employment agreement.

DeKeuster has allegedly breached that agreement by “acting against the interests of BPG, acting for her own interests, and using her position of trust and responsibility owed to BPG to instead cause BPG to enter into business relationships with third parties,” according to the court documents.

The agreement states that DeKeuster was to work in Maine for the benefit of the Berkeley group and not “engage in any practice that competes with (the Berkeley group’s) interest.”

According to the court documents, DeKeuster “entered into a Letter of Intent with a competing group,” thereby breaching the agreement. The documents state that DeKeuster resigned from the Berkeley group on Feb. 24, which the suit states is on or about the same day she allegedly breached her agreement with the letter.

“DeKeuster, acting as Director of NPG, entered into negotiations with a competing business group to provide the same services, business support and activities to NPG that had been orally  agreed to by NPG and BPG since the spring of 2010,” the documents state.

Under the agreement, DeKeuster had agreed “not to undertake any actions in competition with the interests of BPG, either herself or in combination with others, while employed by BPG and for a period of 24 months after ceasing employment.”