Cresco Labs Set to Name National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Michele Roberts to Board of Directors


Update (9:40 a.m. June 10): Cresco Labs has confirmed the appointment of Michele Roberts to its board of directors. This story has been edited to include additional information from the company's official news release.

Cresco Labs (CNSX: CL, OTC: CRLBF) is set to name National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts to its board of directors this month.

The Chicago-based cannabis firm, which currently owns 29 retail licenses and operates in nine states, will ask shareholders to officially elect Roberts and nine other directors to its board at an annual shareholders meeting on June 29 2020, according to a public filing.

The notice, issued Monday, comes just days after Cresco Labs co-founder Joe Caltabiano formally relinquished his board seat after resigning as president in March.

In a statement last Friday, Caltabiano said it was “difficult to leave” the company he helped to launch in 2013 but expressed hope for the future of the business.

"I feel good knowing the board is in a good position to push the vision forward, especially as cannabis use increases and this essential industry expands,” he added.

Indeed, Roberts’ appointment to the board comes at a critical time for both Cresco and the cannabis industry. Cresco posted record revenue growth in 2019, but like many other major firms it struggled to achieve profitability.

Meanwhile, the cannabis industry is quickly mainstreaming and wrestling with issues of diversity and inclusion at a time when millions of Americans are calling for racial equality.

According to the ACLU, a Black person is 3.7X more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than a white person, even though both races consume at similar rates.

“The War on Marijuana, like the larger War on Drugs of which it is a part, is a failure,” the ACLU wrote in 2013. “It has needlessly ensnared hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system, had a staggeringly disproportionate impact on African Americans, and comes at a tremendous human and financial cost.”

Roberts, who is Black, shattered the proverbial glass ceiling when she became the first woman to lead a major North American sports union after being elected as the NBPA’s executive director in 2014.

If confirmed by shareholders, Roberts would be the only nonwhite male helping to inform Cresco’s decision making as a board member.


Roberts also has the ear of NBA commissioner Adam Silver, who in 2017 said there was no need to change the league’s marijuana policy which prohibits players from using the still federally illegal drug.

Under current NBA rules, players are fined $25,000 for their second marijuana violation and suspended for five games for a third.

However, several former and current players have advocated for changes that would allow athletes to use cannabis, and Silver appears to be more receptive

For her part, Roberts appears to support an updated league policy.

“My own view is that there are substantial signs that support its efficacy and the value that it has for us, especially pain management,” she told SB Nation in 2018.

More recently, Roberts has suggested there could be a league policy change as early as November. And earlier today, The Athletic’s Shams Charania reported that the NBA will not test players for “recreational drugs” when the 2019-2020 season resumes next month.

That’s good news for Cresco, which would undoubtedly benefit from any relaxing of strict marijuana policies, especially by a major sports organization like the NBA.

“Drawing on her experience in leading one of the most important player organizations in the sports world and her expertise in law and litigation as a highly-accomplished trial attorney and educator, Michele will provide a unique perspective at a critical time of continued growth and expansion in the industry," Cresco Labs executive chairman Tom Manning said via a news release.

For her part, Roberts said she is "grateful for the opportunity to serve on Cresco Labs’ board."

"I am also committed to supporting Cresco’s Labs’ social responsibility efforts which are focused on the industry’s first national Social Equity and Education Development initiative to better both individual lives and underrepresented communities," she added.

Reached by THCnet on Tuesday, Cresco Labs' chief communications officer Jason Erkes said he couldn’t comment on future board decisions, sharing only a prepared statement regarding Caltabiano’s departure.

“As a member of the executive team and board, Joe was a strong contributor to the foundation of Cresco Labs, and we wish him well in his future endeavors,” he wrote via email.

In an interview with Chicago Tribune, Caltabiano said he has a desire to “explore other opportunities” within the cannabis industry, adding that his next move could include a board seat and present a conflict of interest.

Nevertheless, Caltabiano held more than 17.3 million shares of Cresco, or about 6.2% of the company, as of April 28, 2020.

Cresco’s June 8 filing also lists Marc Lustig, the founder of CannaRoyalty Corp., as a prospective new board member. Earlier this year, Cresco Labs closed on its purchase of CannaRoyalty, which does business as Origin House, at the time saying that Lustig would obtain a Cresco board seat.

Eight existing Cresco board members are also up reelection.

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