Chicago, Illinois’ Green Thumb Industries is reportedly under federal investigation for possible pay-to-play violations associated with the process of acquiring a state cannabis license, according to the Chicago Tribune.
GTI spokeswoman Linda Marsicano told the Tribune that the company was “not aware of any such investigation.”
“Green Thumb takes compliance very seriously and operates with the highest standards of ethical business conduct.” – Marsicano to the Tribune
Shortly after the report’s publishing, GTI pushed back harder against the claims in a press release in which the company demanded a retraction from the Tribune.
The alleged investigation is said to be focused on campaign donations and other actions by the company during the state’s initial retail cannabis licensing process; it’s thought to be the first federal inquiry of an Illinois cannabusiness. The reported investigation also comes at a time when Illinois is working to renegotiate its adult-use cannabis regulations to improve social equity ownership in the state. Many applicants have raised concerns about well-off and well-connected individuals and businesses wielding money and political influence to jump into the cannabis industry while those individuals who were most negatively affected by prohibition continue to struggle for a foothold in the now-legal industry.
GTI had been one of the state’s first licensed medical cannabis companies. The company, which operates in 15 states and trades over the counter as GTBIF, reported more than half a billion dollars in total revenues last year and an estimated market capitalization of $5 billion, according to financial reports filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission outlined by the Tribune.
Last year, the Federal Bureau of Investigation said it was aware of public corruption, including bribes, in the cannabis industry. Since the launch of the legal industry, the agency has made several arrests related to licensing bribes, including the arrest of three Michigan men in 2017 and the arrest of a Humboldt County, California Planning and Building inspector in 2018.
In one of the more high-profile cases, Genoveva Andrade, the third chief of staff to former Fall River, Massachusetts Mayor Jasiel Correia, pleaded guilty last year to charges of extortion, bribery, and making false statements in connection with Correia’s scheme to extort cannabis businesses. Correia is accused of bribery and extortion related to cannabis licensing.
In an unrelated lawsuit against GTI Founder and CEO Ben Kovler – which alleges that he stole his ideas for the company, including the name – he brags about his relationships with the “political world” from Chicago to Springfield.
Note: Lukas Barfield contributed to the reporting in this article.
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