‘Public Deserves Answers’: Watchdogs Light Up Dem Gov Over Potential Conflict Surrounding His Pot Industry Investments
Democratic Maryland Gov. Wes Moore should fully disclose his ties to the cannabis industry given recent actions he has taken as governor to benefit recreational cannabis businesses, experts told the Daily Caller News Foundation.
Possessing 1.5 ounces of cannabis for recreational use will become legal in Maryland in July, and Moore has signed a law creating a recreational cannabis business licensing framework and released $40 million in previously-withheld funding for the Maryland Commerce Department’s Cannabis Business Assistance Fund. On May 1, Moore announced a blind trust for his investments, including $1.17 million of stock in the Chicago-based cannabis company Green Thumb Industries, the Associated Press reported, and now oversight experts are calling for Moore to fully disclose any potential conflict of interests he might have in the industry.
“While the full details are not yet known, the public deserves answers on whether there is a conflict of interest between the governor’s official actions and his investments into the cannabis industry,” Peter McGinnis, communications director for Functional Government Initiative, a watchdog group, told the DCNF. “If elected officials could be using their offices to enrich themselves, it should always raise concern, especially if there is an appearance of conflict.”
Maryland made possessing under 10 grams of marijuana a civil offense in 2014, and its legal medical cannabis industry saw estimated revenue decline from more than $560 million in 2021 to roughly $517 million in 2022, according to The Baltimore Sun. The state’s voters approved a ballot measure in November 2022 to legalize possessing 1.5 ounces of cannabis for recreational use starting on July 1.
Elected in November, Moore campaigned on cannabis legalization, pledging to expunge all simple possession convictions in Maryland and “prioritize equitable access to this emerging industry.” His blind trust, managed by the Brown Investment Advisory & Trust Company, prohibits buying financial securities that would lead to a specific industry accounting for more than 30% of the trust’s total value when those assets present a conflict of interest, according to the AP.
“This blind trust is a continued effort on behalf of Governor Moore to serve Maryland in the most transparent way possible,” Moore’s press secretary Carter Elliot said in a statement provided to the DCNF. “This will ensure the governor is removed from even the appearance of potential conflicts of interest that could arise as a result of his duties as governor and further demonstrates his commitment to serving the people of Maryland to the best of his ability ethically, transparently, and effectively.”
Moore’s $1.17 million stock ownership in Green Thumb Industries would account for more than 45% of the trust’s starting assets, and he sat on the company’s board of directors from 2018 to March 2022, the AP reported. Legal cannabis spending totaled around $32 billion worldwide in 2022, with U.S. sales forecasted to rise by about 14% this year, according to the cannabis data company BDSA.
“Americans deserve full transparency from elected officials,” Tom Jones of the American Accountability Foundation, a conservative government oversight organization, told the DCNF. “If everything thing here is on the level, Gov. Moore should have no problem being open with the public.”
Capital Research Center President Scott Walter told the DCNF that questions need to be answered whenever elected officials appear to enrich themselves using taxpayer money and laws.
“Americans are rightly concerned that our ruling class governs for private benefit not the public good,” Walter said.
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