Boston-based alcohol delivery startup Drizly is in a legal dispute with its former chief executive over a plan to expand the company’s services into the marijuana industry.
Drizly last week filed a lawsuit in Suffolk Superior Court against Nick Rellas, who left the company in August. Rellas cofounded the company in 2012 with his cousin, Cory Rellas, who succeeded him as chief executive.
At the time, the company described the parting as amicable, and Nick Rellas was to remain on the board of directors.
“We’ve worked side by side since founding of company,” Cory Rellas said in August. “He’ll be as much a part of the business but in a different role.”
But according to legal documents, the relationship has been soured by Nick Rellas’s effort to start an online marijuana business. Drizly claimed in a court filing that it has been working on a similar plan since 2017.
Nick Rellas — who is no longer on the board — knew about that plan and is barred from starting such a businesses by contracts with Drizly including a noncompete agreement, according to the suit. “Rellas would not be able to create a competing company without the knowledge and experience he gained at Drizly,” it said.
The company, which is asking the court to put a stop to Nick Rellas’s efforts, said he approached Drizly to see whether it would invest in his endeavor, “an offer which the company refused.”
Nick Rellas could not be reached to comment, and he does not have an attorney listed in court records.
It’s not clear what either party has in mind for marijuana, though Drizly said in the lawsuit that it plans to “enter the cannabis e-commerce market this year.” Neither the company nor an attorney responded to a request for comment.
Drizly says it delivers alcohol in nearly 100 cities in the United States and Canada, but it might be difficult to get approval to deliver pot in the company’s home state. The state Cannabis Control Commission is set to draft regulations for home delivery by May, and it may not even permit the practice.
It’s possible that Drizly will be too big to deliver marijuana products in Massachusetts. The state could potentially reserve home delivery licenses for small businesses and companies controlled by people from neighborhoods that have seen disproportionately high enforcement of drug laws.
Drizly has raised tens of millions of dollars in venture capital, most recently in a $34.6 million funding round announced in December.
Naomi Martin of the Globe staff contributed to this article. Andy Rosen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.