A whistleblower from the Department of Justice is set to testify that the U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr's anti-cannabis sentiments led him to allocate excessive resources towards investigating the cannabis industry.
Not too long ago, it seemed as though the current U.S. Attorney General Bill Barr was a breath of fresh air when it came to his thoughts on the cannabis industry, as opposed to his predecessor, the former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was stridently anti-marijuana. Admittedly, Barr wasn't the ideal cannabis candidate for the role, either, when he became AG for the second time in 2019, though recent news has suggested he might be stricter on the plant than we previously thought.
Yesterday, an employee within the DOJ named John Elias announced that many of the investigations into the cannabis industry, as led by Bill Barr, were the result of Barr's biases surrounding cannabis and were often illegitimate. Elias stated that almost a third of the Antitrust probes into company mergers targeted the cannabis industry, which is particularly damaging given that the uncertainty brought on by a DOJ merger probe leads many of these mergers fall through – thus, injuring an already struggling industry.
"Rejecting the analysis of career staff, Attorney General Barr ordered the Antitrust Division to issue Second Request subpoenas," stated Elias, "the rationale for doing so centered not on an antitrust analysis, but because he did not like the nature of their underlying business."
These anti-cannabis sentiments that are alleged by Elias, were also mentioned in 2019 by the Assistant Attorney General and head of the Antitrust Division, Makan Delrahim, who Elias claimed had recognized that "the investigations were motivated by the fact that the cannabis industry is unpopular 'on the fifth floor.'" The fifth floor, in this instance, is where the Attorney General Barr has his office in the DOJ headquarters building.
"Personal dislike of the [cannabis] industry is not a proper basis upon which to ground an antitrust investigation." Department of Justice employee & whistleblower, John Elias
"The Antitrust Division launched ten full-scale reviews of merger activity taking place in the marijuana, or cannabis, industry," Elias stated. "These mergers involve companies with low market shares in a fragmented industry; they do not meet established criteria for antitrust investigations."
"When career staff examined the transaction, they determined that the cannabis industry appeared to be fragmented with many market participants in the states that had legalized the product. As a result, they viewed the transaction as unlikely to raise any significant competitive concerns."
Whether or not Elias' claims will prove to be verified remains to be seen, however, if it is indeed the case that Bill Barr is found to have an anti-cannabis bias, we may see a loosening of the laws that are currently suffocating the cannabis industry.
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