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Lawsuit Accuses Former House Speaker of Stealing Cannabis Trade Secrets

May 6, 2022 by Tom Ramstack
Lawsuit Accuses Former House Speaker of Stealing Cannabis Trade Secrets
Former House Speaker John Boehner

WASHINGTON — Former U.S. House Speaker John Boehner is being sued for allegedly stealing data from an advocacy group to help form his own industry organization for promoting the legalization and sale of cannabis.

The lawsuit says Boehner was approached by James Pericola, executive director of The 10 Campaign, with an offer to become co-chair of the group. The law firm Squire Patton Boggs LLP, where Boehner is a partner, was supposed to be a legal adviser.

After signing an agreement in March 2018 to become co-chair and learning more about how The 10 Campaign operated, Boehner suddenly backed out of the deal, the lawsuit says.

Less than a year later, the Ohio Republican announced he was starting a new marijuana advocacy group called the National Cannabis Roundtable.

Boehner’s group, which includes former Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius as co-chair, already has supplanted The 10 Campaign as one of the nation’s premier advocates for marijuana legalization. It also has become profitable off what Pericola says is his organization’s operating plan.

Boehner and his heavyweight law firm “improperly used plaintiffs’ proprietary strategies, protected by non-disclosure agreements, to secure lucrative revenue streams in the campaign to deregulate the use of marijuana,” says the lawsuit filed in District of Columbia Superior Court.

“Moreover, plaintiffs contend defendants intentionally misled plaintiffs to believe defendants were advancing the interests of The 10 Campaign with prospective funders, stakeholders and clients to induce plaintiffs to provide ongoing research, proprietary strategy and talking points,” the lawsuit says.  

The advocacy group calls itself The 10 Campaign in recognition of rights reserved to the states under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Marijuana never has been legalized under federal law but 18 states and the District of Columbia do allow sale and personal use of it. Colorado was the first in 2012.

Boehner was an opponent of legalizing marijuana while he was speaker of the House. He switched allegiances sometime after joining Squire Patton Boggs.

The National Cannabis Roundtable describes itself on its website as “an alliance of cannabis companies, as well as ancillary services and solutions providers, who seek cannabis reform which nurtures the nascent domestic industry, protects consumers and advances social equity. We are committed to sensible regulation, criminal justice reform, social equity and community reinvestment.”

The lawsuit says, “Boehner served to legitimize the industry … and paved the way for other politicians, elected officials and influencers to come to the table after years of opposition to cannabis legislation. And he did it by intentionally misleading Pericola.”

While he still believed Boehner was helping him, Pericola sent Squire Patton Boggs proprietary information.

In early April 2018, officials from The 10 Campaign were ready for a promotional effort that would have included Boehner as co-chair.

The promotional materials were going to emphasize benefits of cannabis, such as relieving pain, epilepsy and post-traumatic stress disorder, as well as increasing tax revenue in places where it was sold legally. The 10 Campaign also claimed to have polling results showing Americans generally favored legalized marijuana.

On April 11, 2018, Boehner tweeted that he was joining the board of a Canadian-based marijuana business called Acreage Holdings. Pericola says he wanted to proceed with The 10 Campaign but Boehner declined to participate.

In February 2019, Boehner announced the formation of the National Cannabis Roundtable, the lawsuit says.

In media interviews, Boehner sometimes used talking points The 10 Campaign had listed in promotional materials it had earlier sent to Squire Patton Boggs, according to Pericola. 

“Defendants misappropriated this proprietary strategy gleaned from plaintiffs to defendants’ commercial benefits,” the lawsuit says.

It says Squire Patton Boggs has earned more than $1 million in fees from the National Cannabis Roundtable.

The lawsuit accuses the firm and Boehner of civil violations such as breach of contract, misappropriation of trade secrets and constructive fraud. It seeks an injunction and more than $1.1 million in damages.

The National Cannabis Roundtable did not respond to a request for comment from The Well News by Friday afternoon.

The case is The 10 Campaign LLC et al. v. Squire Patton Boggs LLP et al., filed in the Superior Court for the District of Columbia.

Tom can be reached at tom@thewellnews.com and @TomRamstack

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