The Government Accountability Institute (GAI), a conservative think-tank founded in 2012 by Peter Schweizer and Steve Bannon, released a 76-page report this week detailing instances of alleged political corruption in the cannabis industry.
Bannon was arrested last August by federal officials after he allegedly defrauded the supporters of former President Donald Trump who donated to a private fund-raising effort called We Build the Wall. Bannon — who is believed to have pocketed the supporters’ donations — was pardoned by the former president days before he left office.
The GAI report, titled “Cannabis Cronyism,” highlights the roles of some political leaders including former Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner and New York’s Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the extended roll-out of the legal cannabis industry.
Purporting itself to be a watchdog entity for political corruption, GAI’s report also appears to suggest that the cannabis industry was not declared “essential” during the coronavirus pandemic so as to guarantee patients had access to vital medicine but as a means of lining the pockets of politicians.
“While some claim that cannabis dispensaries were truly as important as pharmacies, which also remained open during statewide lockdowns, other factors may have contributed to this decision. Whatever its medicinal and recreational benefits, cannabis has evolved into a nearly $21 billion industry that lobbies, pressures, and rewards politicians who look out for it.” — Excerpt from the report
Specifically, the report focuses on seven states with some form of legalized cannabis — California, New York, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Missouri, and Washington state — and seeks to highlight instances where officials were either lobbied by cannabis interests or allegedly favored friends and/or family for cannabis business licenses. Many high-profile politicians including New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D), Florida’s Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried (D), and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) are named in the report.
The report also pulls from criminal investigations by the FBI related to the legal cannabis industries in California, Missouri, Florida, and New York.
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