Republican Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (NC) has made six investments in Altria Group Inc., one of the world’s largest tobacco companies—which is positioning itself in the cannabis space—despite spending much of her career advocating against cannabis legalization, Salon reports. Foxx has made at least six investments into the firm since September of last year, according to financial disclosure reports outlined by Salon.
In 2018, Altria—the parent company for Marlboro cigarettes—invested $1.8 billion into Canadian licensed producer Cronos Group, giving the firm a 45% stake in the company that is expected to grow to 55% over the next five years. In February, the company retained Williams Mullen’s Elizabeth Rafferty to lobby on issues related to the responsible and equitable regulation of cannabis sales in Virginia.
The investments into Altria likely make Foxx the largest holder of cannabis-related stocks in Congress, the report says, but it is impossible to know for sure as members of Congress are not required to disclose the exact amounts of their investments.
In December 2020, Foxx voted against the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment & Expungement Act (MORE), which would decriminalize cannabis at the federal level. The measure was approved by the House of Representatives in a mostly partisan 228-164 vote. Two months after the vote, it was reported that Kentucky Rep. John Yarmuth (D) bought between $1,000 and $15,000 worth of stocks in three major cannabis companies—Canopy Growth Corporation, Aurora Cannabis, and Tilray—before announcing his co-sponsorship of the reform package.
Richard Painter, a former White House ethics attorney under President George W. Bush and University of Minnesota law professor, told Salon that the investments are “so obviously a conflict of interest” which “brings into question [Foxx’s] credibility as a lawmaker.”
Foxx’s office declined to comment to Salon but tweeted in December 2020 that “Democrats can’t get their minds off pot bills, and they think it’s more important than: Supporting small businesses, Safely reopening schools, Protecting the livelihoods of Americans.”
“No wonder their majority is shrinking,” she wrote. “They’re so far removed from reality.”
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