Jordan Coombs didn’t know the chocolate bars he was eating were infused with marijuana.
The so-called Pot Pavilion at the Denver County Fair strictly forbade any marijuana-laced treats to be handed out.
But less than an hour after eating the chocolate bars, Coombs, 34, began to feel strange.
“I was as high as I’ve ever been in my whole life,” the Colorado father of two said. “I lost touch with reality.”
Coombs is just one of several people suing a Colorado company for allegedly handing out the high-inducing chocolate to people who didn’t know it was laced with THC, causing them to “overdose.”
Now one of the owners of Beyond Broadway — the Colorado marijuana business named in that lawsuit — is seeking to grow and sell medical marijuana in Illinois.
Ben Burkhardt is a partner in HealthCentral in Illinois, said Matthew Hortenstine, another one of HealthCentral’s partners and the company’s attorney.
HealthCentral has applied to the state for three cultivation center licenses, in Mattoon, Litchfield and Troy, and two dispensary licenses, in Springfield and Collinsville, said Hortenstine, of Effingham.
He said the Illinois company has no ties to the Colorado one.
On top of the Denver Fair lawsuit, which is seeking class-action status, Burkhardt is facing a lawsuit filed against him by his own company. Beyond Broadway claims Burkhardt and others surreptitiously used proprietary materials as he attempted to establish marijuana businesses in Illinois and Nevada. That includes a plan to illegally transport marijuana seeds out of Colorado, according to the lawsuit.
Burkhardt denies the allegations in that lawsuit, which he described in an email as a “business dispute” between himself and his Colorado partner.
He said he’s cooperating with Colorado authorities in regards to the Denver Fair incident in which seven people claim that they ate marijuana-laced chocolate despite assurances that it wasn’t spiked with THC, one of the high-inducing chemicals found in marijuana.
“These instances are being addressed as they should, and the Colorado business is in good standing with the state,” Burkhardt said. “Along the way, I have learned what it means to operate a responsible company, especially in the context of medicinal cannabis. I understand the business’s operations, the needs of patients, and how to effectively co-exist within communities. It would be our team’s honor to provide a safe, educational experience to those that qualify for medical marijuana treatments in Illinois.”
Meanwhile, Beyond Broadway has denied the allegations and claims in court documents that a former employee or others may have sabotaged its Denver County fair booth.
In that lawsuit, Coombs and others claim they visited the Pot Pavilion at the Denver County Fair and were offered the treats, which were presented as regular candy.
Coombs became so ill, he “projectile vomited uncontrollably in his car,” according to the lawsuit.
He and other plaintiffs say they were diagnosed with having a “THC overdose.”
A Denver Police spokesman said the department is still investigating the incident.
In an unrelated case, Burkhardt was accused of a drug-related crime in California in 2009. He was convicted of renting or leasing a building to manufacture a controlled substance, a misdemeanor, according to Los Angeles County records.
Burkhardt said he was growing 35 marijuana plants for a dispensary in Los Angeles.
“I was following California’s medical cannabis cultivation requirements, which still remain vague and difficult to interpret,” he said.”I relocated to Colorado to operate in a clearly regulated environment.”
People seeking to get into the legal marijuana industry in Illinois must disclose their criminal history in their applications. The law says applicants seeking to grow medical marijuana can’t have felony or gambling convictions on their records.
State officials say they plan to award the limited medical marijuana licenses before the end of the year. Just 60 dispensaries will be allowed to open throughout the state. And only 22 medical marijuana-farming licenses will be granted.
As for Colorado resident Coombs, he said he supports the medical marijuana industry but hopes Illinois officials consider the history of potential marijuana sellers and growers.
Mistakes like giving out marijuana-infused candy to unsuspecting people could mean there’s a “systematic” problem within the company, he said.