Authored By: Teri Buhl
The CEO of Folium Biosciences, Kashif Shan, is accused of violating a cease and desist order issued by the Colorado Spring fire department who had attempted to shut down the company’s CBD extraction plant because a host of regulations and safety codes were being ignored by the company and its senior management team.
Brett Lacey, CS Fire Marshall, confirmed for Cannabis Law Report that his staff had tried to serve Shan a summons for a criminal misdemeanor for continuing to extract THC from their industrial hemp when under the C&D order but Shan dodged the summons for a year and the statute of limitations subsequently ran out.
Shan had no intentions of letting a local fire department shut down his money making CBD machine and came up with a plan, assisted by (VP of operations) Jenna Lubieniecki , during late 2018 to set up a secret unregulated extraction plant in Rocky Ford, Colorado.
Shan also hired a member of the Colorado Springs fire department who was about to retire to act as a consultant for Folium in order to try to get advance warning of inspections, according to an internal email obtained by CLR and interviews with former employees. That man is Jay Weightman who when contacted on his cell phone by CLR refused to confirm or deny the consulting position.
Full Spectrum CBD
According to staff interviewed by CLR and the contents of a recent lawsuit, new information has now come to light that Folium was actually selling full spectrum CBD during that time, unbeknownst to their wholesale clients who were told they were being sold a non-psychoactive CBD isolate.
In contrast to isolates, full-spectrum CBD products contain a full range of cannabinoids. When the cannabinoids are extracted from hemp, the entire extract is made into a consumable product, meaning that customers are getting a healthy dose of all the cannabinoids that were in the plant. The primary concern with Full Spectrum is how much THC stays in the product. If you live in a state where cannabis is illegal, or if you simply don’t want to consume THC yourself, then you might be concerned about what constitutes a Full Spectrum CBD products.
Folium doesn’t have a license to sell anything but regulated Hemp in the state of Colorado.
This means officially regulated hemp, must by law, have .3% or less of THC.
Folium takes it one step further though and markets the concept that they sell 0% THC CBD products. Folium says it ships not only across the U.S. but also internationally to places such as the EU and Asia. The wholesale company’s CBD isolates are then sold to retail clients who turn them into CBD products approved for sale, which includes products both for humans and pets.
According to two chemists at the company during the time Folium was working out of their alleged illegal extraction plant in Rocky Ford, clients would complain about THC issues when they did their own third party Certificate of Analysis reports. Clients said the product either had a THC level that was too high or a CBD level that was too low. CLR has previously reported a graphic designer at Folium told us they were asked to doctor some COA reports.
Folium’s solution was to keep sending back the product for testing saying the clients analysis was wrong.
Or in some cases they kept samples from a prior harvest and used those samples to send to third part testing in an effort to fool clients into thinking they had made a mistake and the product was delivered as promised.
Japan & Processing
In the case of Japan the country only allows hemp stock and seed sales. According to an email obtained by Cannabis Law Report a large Japanese cosmetic company was negotiating a deal with Kashif Shan who confirmed Folium could meet the company requirements delivering a product that had 0% THC and did not include the processing of flower.
Kash committed to this delivery but other senior employees of the company wouldn’t sign off because they knew the company used all of the plant to produce its THC and there were concerns they couldn’t deliver 0% THC to the Japanese client.
One of Folium’s sale reps to the Asian market, Ryan Noland, was stopped by customs on a recent work trip to the region according to colleagues.
Noland traveled to Asia with Folium’s Chief Science officer Vanesa Fernandez. The duo would have had to present documents when going through customs swearing to the accuracy of the genetics of the product coming into the country. A recent lawsuit filed in Colorado federal court against Folium questions the accuracy of what Folium is actually selling to Asian customers. Noland was contacted on his cellphone repeatedly by CLR but refused to speak about the experience or his work with Folium.
We did manage to find Mr Noland on Linked In where he is somewhat shy and does not have a profile photo, although a recent post he made would suggest a certain way of thinking. We have also managed to find, after a bit of digging, a photo of Noland from another public source.
Folium’s history of misleading advertising is supported by interviews with chemists who recently worked at Folium in their quality department.
These employees, who asked not to be named for fear of retribution by the company’s senior management and because they also signed NDA’s , have explained that if the extracted hemp product came up in testing with .1% -.3% THC they were instructed to exclude it from testing results. The chemists said it was explained to them by management that it is legal to sell hemp with up to .3% THC so they could just exclude it as it’s not considered “hot hemp”.
The chemist interviewed by CLR felt that the approach was still misleading to Folium customers because the company claims in their sales pitch that they sell 0% THC product
These employees say the direction to fudge testing results came from Jenna Lubieniecki,(now Knapp) who previously worked at Great Storm Brewing as a server and was initially hired as a chemist by Folium but was then asked to leave the chemist team by the chief scientist Raj Gupta because of her lack of skill.
Ms. Lubieniecki, moved within the company and subsequently became Kash’s go to person willing to do whatever he asked and rewarded with bonuses and promotions; this, according to over half a dozen Folium staff interviewed by CLR. Lubieniecki subsequently became director of production and operations, senior manager of technical operations and her current title on her Linkedin profile boast EVP of operations at Folium.
Kashif Shan, The Don
Folium staff allege that Shan leads the company “like a mafia boss” and even asks his staff to call him Kash (like Cash). He has even had a graphic designer (who wishes to remain unamed) at the company to photoshop an image of his face on the head of a Native American Indian Chief which he then hung it his Colorado Springs office.
The image obtained by CLR was created by a former Folium employee at the request of Shan and runs with the legend
“There is only one chief here! The rest are just Indians”.
Shan, whose family is from Pakistan, is not a member of the Native American family. Multiple staff interviewed by CLR found the image extremely offensive but Shan kept it hanging. At present the image is no longer hanging in his office according to sources.
Sexism, Alleged Sexual Misconduct, Business Practices & Employees
As a new company in 2016 Folium had its first EEOC complaint by sales assistant Jessica Arent. Victoria Naifeh from the Colorado division of the Department of Labor and Employment was the lead compliance investigator on the case at the time. A copy of the complaint obtained by CLR show female employees were told to be quiet or not talk to Kash if they wanted to come forward with problems in the company by the head of sales. Jessica’s complaint also details being grabbed on the chest by a male employee and when she complained about it she was told to just stay away from the male staffer.
The Colorado EEOC took a year to bring the case forward and in 2017 Folium countered the complaint claiming she was fired for lack of performance, not being a team player, and violating their NDA. But even before Folium was required to respond to the EEOC complaint, the company hired outside counsel Reid Allred, from Denver-based Chipman Glasser, to send Arent a cease and desist letter on November 1, 2016 after they learned Arent had written a Linkedin post stating she had been privy to conversations about Folium stealing intellectual property from a competitive wholesale CBD company in Illinois. The company, Orochem Technologies, sued Folium in 2017 for theft of the IP accusing the company of sending in spies with the intent to defraud Orochem and steal their unique extraction processing.
A copy of the Cease and Desist letter obtained by Cannabis Law Report warned Arent, “Folium was deeply troubled to learn that you have begun contacting its customers in order to disparage Folium and solicit their business away from Folium.” Folium demanded she respond to the letter by the following day confirmed she would agree to be silenced. Folium tried to claim she was disclosing their pricing and cost structure to customers as retaliation to Arent’s testimony about the Orochem suit. Folium also tried to threaten Arent that she could work with a competing CBD company based on documents they say she said when she started with Folium but since Colorado is a right to work state the claim ended up being meritless.
Out of a job, Arent was trying to start her own cannabis consulting company helping companies with compliance and wasn’t going to be quiet or go away. A year later, during the same time Folium was responding to the EEOC complaint, Folium sued her for $1 million in Colorado, El Paso District, State court for defamation. The complaint was filed October 31, 2017.
Ms Arent finally won her claim with the Department of Labor that involved unpaid commissions. Folium appealed the decision but Arent fought back. Folium was at risk of the EEOC complaint becoming public when their then in-house counsel convinced Kash Shan to settle with Arent in April 2018. A copy of the settlement shows Arent was paid $25,000 as long as she agreed to sign an NDA, drop future claims against the company, and never talk about Folium publicly. Arent now runs a cannabis consulting company out of Florida and wouldn’t comment on the record about her experience at Folium when reached by Cannabis Law Report.
Folium eventually settled the case with Orochem before it got to trial and people familiar with the case say the settlement was favorable to Orochem.
Folium’s Attack On Whistleblowers
Shan and his CBD company have been under fire since Cannabis Law Report first reported in August that Shan was being accused a siphoning off company funds for personal gains in a series of lawsuits filed by employees who were given membership units in the parent llc called Whole Hemp Company . Cannabis Law Report has subsequently been contacted by multiple former Folium staffers wishing to come forward about the alleged illegal actions and abusive behavior of the company executives under the direction of Kashif Shan.
Since reporting on Folium this summer CLR has learned current staff have been instructed to contact their in-house counsel or security if anyone from outside the company contacts them (including reporters trying to fact check stories). Threats of withholding bonuses or firing are often made even though some staff have written employment agreements guaranteeing profit sharing.
Only last week Folium held an all hands meeting announcing no bonuses from the profit sharing plan were going to be paid now. Some staffers fear this was retribution because Folium management doesn’t know who is talking to the media.
Folium has also sued this reporter in New York federal court (but not the publication her reporting was sold to, CLR), for libel, before she even published a story. They sued for attempting to fact check and find sources to talk about their experience at the company. For their lawsuit against this reporter and bought Goggle ad words to try to get the lawsuit to come up in a google search above the top story which has been Cannabis Law Report stories on Folium.
Folium has even created a website!
In their most recent move Folium hired a ‘consultant’ to pitch a rookie reporter at a local Colorado Springs newspaper with no experience in investigative journalism to write a profile on Folium. This week the Colorado Springs Independent ran a feature cover story on Folium written by Faith Miller. CLR confirmed with the paper’s editor in chief that no Folium staff, except their in-house counsel, were interviewed for the story. Instead they took choice quotes from the company’s in house counsel and apparently spoke on background with Sanders Law Firm in what appears to be a fluff piece intended to ward off questions from clients and future investors about Folium’s alleged illegal business practices.
Cannabis Law Report has repeatedly asked for an interview with Folium’s Kash Shan and has been refused.
Sanders firm was removed as counsel for Folium in the first lawsuit filed by former business development executive Dale Takio and replaced by a more reputable Denver law firm. Folium has now rehired Sanders after Folium’s former head of government relations, Juanita Ramos, sued in Colorado Federal Court accusing Folium’s CEO of a murder for hire plot and kidnapping of its former VP of Sales Ryan Lewis. The Ramos lawsuit also details how Folium sold “hot hemp” and created an illegal extraction processing location.
UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLORADO
Civil Action No. 1:19-cv-3268
JUANITA RAMOS, individually and derivatively on behalf of defendant WHOLE HEMP COMPANY LLC d/b/a FOLIUM BIOSCIENCES,
WHOLE HEMP COMPANY LLC d/b/a FOLIUM BIOSCIENCES, FOLIUM EQUITY HOLDING LLC, KASHIF SHAN, and QUAN NGUYEN,
Ramos, like Takio, is suing Folium over Kashif Shan not honoring written and verbal contracts of membership unit ownership in the company. Unlike a C-Corp whose owners get equity, investors in LLCs get membership units.
CLR has asked the editor of the Colorado Springs Indy paper if Perry Sanders was influencing the local reporters sourcing and research. The Editor in Chief, Bryan Grossman, said no but the tone of the story shows otherwise. The local paper also left out the numerous public fines Folium has had to pay that put employees safety at risk, as previously reported by Cannabis Law Report.
In House Counsel Defends Folium Position
Folium’s current general counsel Ric (Ricardo) Calzada went as far to say on the record for the CS Indy report that he thinks the membership unit contract disclosed in the Juanita Ramos suit that claims to prove her ownership was granted had been forged. CLR has also spoken with a few of the other Folium employees on the membership unit contract who have confirmed these are their actual signatures and find it hard to believe the document Ramos filed in her lawsuit is a forgery.
Calzada also said the company wouldn’t buy hot hemp because “it doesn’t make financial sense for the company to buy “hot hemp“ for its 0.0 percent THC products”. “We spend a lot of money getting rid of THC“ from CBD oil derived from hemp, Calzada explains. “We lose valuable product in the process. So if there was more THC in it, we would lose even more.“
It’s Calzada’s statement that actually doesn’t make sense because hot hemp will usually cost a lot less to buy as the farm that grew it wants to get any price they can for it instead of destroy the hemp as the law requires. CLR has also found and interviewed the chemist who tested the hot hemp described in the Ramos lawsuit. The former Folium staffer confirmed it had THC levels of .7 % to1% and a large quantity was bought.
Juanita and her attorneys Henry Baskerville and David Olsky of Denver’s Fortis Law Partners told CLR they would not comment on the forgery statement by Folium’s Calzada and said they believe their claims in the lawsuit stand on their merits. Attorney Baskerville said they were going to work within the courts to try their case and not in media. Baskerville also declined to participate in the Colorado Springs Independent Folium report.
Folium’s Exit Plan
On December 11 2019, Folium issued a press release whilst at the USA’s biggest regulated cannabis & Hemp conference, MJ BizCon in Las Vegas, saying that the company now intends to reverse merge into Australis and become a public company.
CLR has previously reported on how the announcement of Australis initial equity investment of $US3 million was allegedly part of a stock price manipulation scheme for the stock ticker $AUSA. Kash Shan has repeatedly “bragged” to staff, and anyone else who would listen, that Canadian cannabis giant Aurora had made a previous buy-out offer of $US800 million but he turned it down. Folium staff is consistently told by Shan to just stay with the company (and keep quiet) in order to profit from a money making sale or IPO.
The press release does not not give any details of how much cash vs. stock Folium membership unit holders will receive. The only detail was Australis would now be called Folium Biosciences and that Folium would own 89% of the stock of the new company and Australis shareholders would get 11%.
Australis, run by Scott Dowty, said they will be involved in the running of the company. It’s unclear what Kash Shan’s role will be in the future organisation.
Australis is a spin-off of Aurora and created as their financing arm. It trades on the CSE and OTC Markets. The press announcement said the new company will try to get listed on a US national exchange like NYSE or NASDAQ.
There is no date announced as to when this reverse merger might or will happen.
An analyst at Edison has valued the deal at $528 U.S. million which would be less than the $800 million offer Kash Shan has boasted he originally got from Aurora.
$AUSA hasn’t done well since going out on it’s own with the stock not trading above one dollar.
Folium also failed to hold a meeting with all membership unit holders of the company to approve the reverse merger which could be an issue if some members decide to sue.
Cannabis Law Report has learned more lawsuits against Folium are forthcoming but cannot confirm currently who is filing them and when they may be issued.
I’m a professional financial investigative journalist who has written for the Greenwich Time, Hearst CT Newspapers, Forbes Magazine, Fortune.com, The Atlantic.com, New York Magazine, New York Post, Trader Monthly, Housingwire, ML-Implode, The Business Insider, Long Island Business News, Dealbreaker, New York Observer, Bitcoin Magazine, DealFlow Media, SIRF.org and more. For the last five years I have been a contributing reporter for Market Nexus Media who publishes a financial trade publication called Growth Capital Investor.
I earned my breaking/investigative news chops reporting during the financial crisis in 2008 for the Sunday edition of the New York Post. I was one of the first to report on the missteps at IndyMac that lead to government investigations and lawsuits against the banks founders. Caught hedge funds like Carrington Capital abusing investors without disclosing conflicts of interest with senior RMBS bond holders; they were sued by Wilbur Ross for Civil RICO. I exposed Bear Stearns misleading their own investors and monoline insurers on the quality of the loans in their mortgage-backed securities, which led to a fraud lawsuit against JP Morgan/Bear Stearns and the $13 billion settlement with the DOJ in 2013. Since 2010 multiple Wall Street firms, that my reporting warned about first, have been [JP Morgan, SpongeTech, Security Savings Bank, SAC Capital, Palm Beach Capital Management, New Stream Capital, NIR Group/Cory Ribotsky, Bear Stearns RMBS Traders, Mike Perry IndyMac CEO, Steven Muehler and the Nanocap MarketPlace, Barry Honig and The Frost Group] investigated or charged for financial violations by the FBI/SEC/State AG or shut down by bank regulators.
The Huffington Post named me the number three most dangerous financial journalist for being willing to challenge the establishment and inform readers best. I’m working on trade-marking “Smashmouth Journalism”
Read More About Teri’s Work At: https://www.teribuhl.com/about/