As the Illinois legislature considers legalizing cannabis for adult use, the reforms face vocal opposition from one of the state’s most powerful groups – the Archdiocese of Chicago – and one of the organization’s top lay officials is COO Betsy Bohlen, who also serves on the board of Insys Therapeutics, according to a Chicago Sun-Times report.
Insys, in 2016, donated $500,000 to opponents of cannabis legalization in Arizona; earlier this month the company’s founder and four former executives were found guilty of bribing physicians to prescribe their opioid spray Subsys and other fraud and conspiracy charges. Insys also produces Syndros – a cannabis-based medication used to treat nausea and vomiting approved by federal regulators in 2017. Bohlen is paid more than $145,000 to serve on the company’s board.
The success or failure of the legalization measure could have an impact on Bohlen’s compensation with Insys, which is mostly stock awards and stock options. The archdiocese does not believe Bohlen’s work on the board in a conflict of interest with her work as COO.
“We do not see any conflict of interest in Betsy Bohlen’s role in helping INSYS recover from a troubled history and bring products to market to serve the unmet needs of patients,” the archdiocese said in a statement to the Sun-Times.
However, in their February letter to lawmakers opposing cannabis legalization, the archdiocese referenced the opioid crises and claimed that adult-use legalization “will only add to the problem.” Catholic Conference Executive Director Robert Gilligan said Bohlen had “zero influence” on the church’s opposition to the reforms.
In a statement, Bohlen told the Sun-Times that she joined the board of Insys to help it transition from a “difficult past” but did not clarify whether she played a role in the archdiocese’s anti-cannabis position.
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