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Colorado Cannabis Company Hires Former Big Tobacco Lawyer

April 15, 2020, 3:06 PM

Patricia Kovacevic, a veteran legal and compliance specialist in the electronic cigarette and tobacco industry, has been named the top in-house lawyer at a new Denver-based cannabis products company.

Redwood Green Corp. announced April 14 its addition of Kovacevic as general counsel and head of external affairs. She most recently served as a founder and principal at Regulation Strategy, a Tampa, Fla.-area cannabis and nicotine regulatory compliance consultancy that she formed a year ago.

Kovacevic, who speaks seven languages, wasn’t immediately available for comment about her new role.

Redwood Green CEO Michael Saxon, who took over as the company’s top executive in February, said in a statement that her “experience checked the box in every area we were looking for and more.”

In-House Expertise

Kovacevic started her legal career at London-based legal giant Linklaters in 2001. She subsequently served as a managing partner of Romanian law firm Stefanica, Osmani & Partners before moving in 2004 to Philip Morris International Inc., where she was a senior counsel with the cigarette giant in Switzerland.

In 2011, Kovacevic left Philip Morris and joined Squire Patton Boggs predecessor Patton Boggs as a partner focusing on infrastructure deals and in-house corporate compliance matters. Lorillard Tobacco Co. then hired her as an associate general counsel, director of regulatory affairs, and vice president of compliance.

Kovacevic left Lorillard in 2015 to become general counsel for vaping and e-cigarette company Nicopure Labs LLC, which has offices in Gainesville, Fla., and London. Kovacevic left Nicopure in late 2018. A biography for Kovacevic on her consultancy’s website states that in addition to English, she can also speak French, German, Italian, Romanian, Serbo-Croatian, and Spanish.

Joseph Galda, a former Fox Rothschild counsel and one-time partner at Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney and Hodgson Russ who now runs his own practice in Berwyn, Pa., told Bloomberg Law he previously served as Redwood Green’s acting “outside inside counsel.”

Redwood Green was formed last year after Sausalito, Calif.-based First Colombia Development Corp. bought the licensed cannabis assets of Critical Mass Industries LLC—a Lakewood, Colo.-based company doing business as Good Meds USA Inc., Galda said. His law firm, J.P. Galda & Co., now serves as outside securities counsel to Redwood Green.

Mark Radke, a former Arent Fox partner and Schiff Hardin counsel, serves on Redwood Green’s board of directors along with fellow Georgetown University Law Center graduate Steve Hilton, a former Buchanan Ingersoll counsel who spent seven years as a vice president of global government and public affairs at McDonald’s Corp.

Cannabis Company Cash

Redwood Green’s hire of Kovacevic comes as some states that legalized marijuana for recreational use have watched sales of the substance soar during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The dispensaries in Colorado are open,” Galda told Bloomberg Law.

One state where marijuana retailers aren’t considered an essential business is Massachusetts, where Kay Doyle, a commissioner of the Cannabis Control Commission, this week announced her plans to step down May 8 and return to the private sector.

Doyle, whose term was set to expire in September, is a former deputy general counsel at the Massachusetts Department of Health. She became the state’s top pot regulator in 2017 after voters legalized widespread marijuana use.

At least three publicly traded companies operating in the cannabis space have filed 2019 proxy statements detailing how much they paid their top in-house lawyers last year.

Toronto-based Cronos Group Inc. said Xiuming Shum, executive vice president of legal and regulatory affairs, received $419,570—including $189,873 in base salary—in 2019. Shum, a former Sullivan & Cromwell associate, joined Cronos as general counsel in 2017. Murray Garnick, general counsel at top tobacco producer Altria Group Inc., is a member of the board at Cronos.

OrganiGram Holdings Inc., which this week posted a nearly $5 million quarterly loss, disclosed that it gave $814,962 in total compensation to former chief legal officer Michael Tripp last year. The sum, which included $116,910 in cash, was a raise over the $378,498 given to Trip in 2018. Tripp left OrganiGram in April 2019, a little over two years after he joined the company based in Moncton, New Brunswick.

The Greater Cannabis Co., a Baltimore-based biopharmaceutical company seeking to develop and commercialize cannabinoid products, paid $84,000 in salary to chief legal officer Mark Radom in 2019. Radom, who speaks fluent Russian, became the company’s top in-house lawyer in 2018 at a salary of $7,000 per month. To date, however, Greater Cannabis has only been able to pay $3,000 a month to Radom, as securities filings show the unpaid portion of his salary is listed on the company’s books as a loan.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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