Cannabis & Crony Capitalism: From Matt Gaetz to Trulieve
The origins of Trulieve, a major cannabis company, trace back to a nexus of prominent Florida Republicans tied to disgraced Congressman Matt Gaetz. A special report from Project CBD.
“CANNABIZ TYCOONS UNDERWRITE THE RIGHT
If a time-traveler from the Woodstock generation were to land in contemporary America, it would likely come as a shock how many captains of the legal cannabis industry are supporters of a Republican Party that is now lurching deeper into reaction than even Nixon dared to dream of on his worst day.
Legalization was supposed to take cannabis out of the hands of criminal networks, but the new model often looks like crony capitalism.
Recall the headlines of 2019, when four Rudolph Giuliani associates were busted on suspicion of influence-peddling related to the cannabis industry in California and Nevada — and two of them were directly linked to Giuliani’s Ukraine intrigues. Charges are still pending against the quartet.
An investigation last year by Cannabis Wire found that more than a dozen cannabis executives and investors focused their 2020 election funding on political action committees backing Republicans.
Among these was Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers, who gave $2,800 to the Tillis Daines Majority Committee — backing Republicans Steve Daines in Montana and Thom Tillis in North Carolina in their successful bids to hold on to their Senate seats.
Single-issue politics may be a partial explanation here. Cannabis Wire writes: “Neither Senator Tillis nor Senator Daines has expressed support for cannabis legalization. However, in the last couple of years … Senator Tillis co-sponsored a medical cannabis research bill, and Senator Daines introduced an amendment to expand medical cannabis access for veterans.”
Both Tillis and Daines voted against impeaching Trump after the January 6th Capitol insurrection.
Jason Vedadi, the former executive chair of Harvest Health & Recreation (Trulieve’s acquisition target), last year gave $1,000 to the Tillis Daines Majority Committee.
This is a far cry from the image Trulieve seeks to promote of itself. In a November 2020 press release, Trulieve boasted of its $40,000 donation to the Last Prisoner Project, a group seeking clemency for cannabis prisoners. The donation was part of the Last Prisoner Project’s “Roll it Up for Justice” campaign, which encourages cannabis businesses to support its clemency efforts. The press release boasted of “Trulieve’s ongoing efforts to support initiatives aimed at bringing restorative justice to the lives of those unfairly impacted by past cannabis convictions.”
Such efforts are to be applauded, but for those who view cannabis legalization in the context of a broader struggle for social justice, there is an unsettling dissonance here. Legalization was supposed to take cannabis out of the hands of criminal networks, but the new model often looks like crony capitalism.”
June 10, 2021