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Can Corporate Cannabis Coexist with “Legacy” or Traditional Cannabis? (Part 1)

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Beard Bros. Pharms recently published: Can “Legal” and “Traditional” Cannabis Markets Co-Exist?

…Which got me thinking about Corporate Cannabis and the “Legacy,” or “Traditional” markets, and Cannabis in general.

“Corporate Cannabis” generally holds a negative connotation depending on who you ask.

And, they most likely deserve it.

Many industry insiders and operators feel Corporate Cannabis Multi-State Operators (MSOs) are soulless, greedy, money grubbers, driven by profit— above all else.

What do you think?

I’d even bet most C-level cannabis executives and lawmakers got into Cannabis because they thought, or a friend or family member suggested, it would be a terrific way to make ridiculous amounts of money.

We rarely see the anti-cannabis lawmaker or ex-corporate type develop a genuine connection to the plant and change course; however, those who change and can show genuine compassion should be welcomed and commended, not shunned.

For example, some may experience or witness a loved one find relief with Cannabis and change their minds.

And, many of us have been conditioned through reefer madness and its modern perversions, only to later change when faced with better evidence— that’s not who or what I’m talking about.

No, this is about the ones on the record rigging our systems.

In fact, there are recordings from individuals who may have played a role in regulatory capture in Florida, where they talk about knowing nothing about Cannabis other than that it would be very lucrative.

I’m talking about Chad and Thad that never grew a plant, the ones that have never been raided or arrested, or even feared it happening.

The ones who have never experienced having their electric or water turned off, never wondered about their next meal, never experienced the war on drugs’ harms first or even second hand, the ones who have never risked their lives or freedoms for a plant or others. (Update: If they have, they must’ve forgotten.)

They have never risked anything besides investor’s or daddy’s money, and if at all, only to increase their own bank accounts. The biggest risk these types take is when they are actively rigging our cannabis programs and eroding public trust. 

These types ensure prohibition 2.0 via high barriers to entry and arbitrary regulations. And, the worst case for these types is being exposed for their “white collar” crimes, where they get to drag out their court cases and then choose a cushy prison.

It is not even close to fair.

Is this the type of behavior we want “leading” the industry and being the face of Cannabis? Making rules for Cannabis?

For most if not all of the “legacy” or traditional operators, and well-educated small business owners, “corporate cannabis” is synonymous with bad actors trying to take advantage of others.

Corporate Cannabis is the antithesis to the work of Jack Herer and other legends who rightfully advocated for compassion and against over-regulation and taxation.

Chad on his own is no issue for Cannabis, but with the help from lawmakers, Chad can do a lot of damage.

Example One—

John Thomas Burnette, also known as “J.T” Burnette, husband of Kim Rivers. Rivers serves as CEO of the Corporate Cannabis MSO known as Trulieve

In recordings obtained by the FBI, Burnette talked about essentially rigging Florida’s medical program to keep other competitors out. 

Burnette is on the record talking about then-state Rep. Halsey Beshears and him changing specific requirements to Florida’s medical cannabis bill. He also stated that neither he nor Rivers knew anything about Cannabis at the time, other than that it would be highly profitable, according to an MJ Biz Daily article on the topic.

He later claimed this was all bragging.

J.T was convicted of five counts, however they were not about his alleged rigging of Florida’s medical cannabis program. The investigation still seemed to have highlighted a web of corruption. 

According to the U.S DOJ:

“A federal jury in Tallahassee has convicted John Thomas Burnette, 44, of Tallahassee, Florida of one count of Extortion Under Color of Official Right, two counts of Honest Services Fraud by Bribery, one count of Use of Interstate Commerce Facilities to Promote Bribery, and one count of Making False Statements to a Federal Officer. The guilty verdict was returned August 13, 2021, at the conclusion of a fifteen-day trial.”

Note: Burnette’s lawyers recently filed for acquittal, and his sentencing has been pushed back to November 8th, 2021.


Example Two—

Jasiel Correia, an ex-Mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, was recently found guilty of extorting local marijuana entrepreneurs and sentenced to six years in prison by a federal judge.

According to the U.S DOJ:

“After taking office as Fall River Mayor in January 2016, Correia agreed to issue non-opposition letters to marijuana vendors in return for cash bribes and other payments.
Under Massachusetts law, non-opposition letters from the head of 
local government are required in order to obtain a license to operate a marijuana business. Correia, as Mayor, was solely responsible for approving all non-opposition letters in Fall River.

In addition, applicants seeking marijuana licenses are required to enter into host community agreements, between the marijuana company and the local government, stating that the company will give up to 3% of its gross sales to the local government. 

Four marijuana vendors agreed to pay bribes ranging from over $75,000 up to $250,000 in cash, campaign contributions and mortgage discharges to Correia and his co-conspirators in return for non-opposition letters and host community agreements.”

You can read Correia’s attorney statements here.

Example Three— 

Rich Kerr, former Mayor of Adelanto, California, was recently arrested and charged with several counts of wire fraud and bribery. To be clear, Kerr has not been found guilty of anything and is presumed innocent. This is simply information from an indictment.

Prosecutors alleged Rich Kerr accepted bribes and kickbacks from cannabis companies in his town; they also alleged he voted in favor of dispensaries at least partially to profit from them. 

According to the U.S DOJ:

“As Mayor, Kerr supported marijuana legalization, voted in favor of an ordinance authorizing marijuana cultivation in the city, voted in favor of an ordinance authorizing the operation of medical marijuana dispensaries, and voted to authorize the distribution, transportation and testing of medical marijuana, among other commercial marijuana activities. 

At the same time, Kerr secretly used his official position to enrich himself and his co-schemers by passing these same ordinances, according to the indictment.”

There are many more cases, all with similar themes, and you should get the point by now.

Perhaps the pushback on Corporate Cannabis and the lawmakers that enable them is rightfully placed. 

When you consider so much of the current issues plaguing Cannabis is mostly from corporate companies trying to navigate something they don’t understand and lawmakers regulating something they have lied about for decades, it should not be surprising that people are disappointed.

When you consider “white collar” criminals get privileges and preferential treatment afforded to them which many non-violent cannabis prisoners could only dream of, it is beyond frustrating.  

I often see folks say silly things to minimize the cannabis industry’s gripes with corporate Cannabis, consolidation, regulatory capture, arbitrary limits and licensing requirements, or other entry barriers.

I hear these folks say “This happens in every industry,” and “this is just how the world works.” They aren’t wrong, but damn, what a pessimistic outlook for something we are supposed to all love.

We should believe we can do better than other industries, and we have to believe it to be better.

What these folks don’t understand is that Cannabis is not every other industry. Cannabis is plant medicine. Cannabis is sustainable energy and materials. Cannabis is a way of life and culture for millions across the world.

If they knew that, they would understand.

While I won’t try to minimize other industries, I do want to emphasize the differences.

While other industries have scandals and issues, few, if any, can compare to Cannabis and its history. 

What other industry, besides perhaps war, has witnessed millions of lives ruined and many lost to misinformation, religious beliefs, racism, classism, totalitarianism, or even just greed, or stigma?

What other industry has had to fight to become legal, again, for over 84 years? (Arguably longer depending on when you consider Cannabis being made “fully illegal.”)

Many may think of other social issues or important causes at this point, but that’s not what we’re discussing.

We are comparing Cannabis to other industries, and in my opinion, there is no comparison to anything like it.

Because of this, attempts to regulate it “like alcohol,” and other noble causes often fall short.

Do you think we can coexist?

My answer… and Part 2!


The views expressed are opinions, and some portions are satire. No accusations or statements are being made.

The views expressed are my own, and their appearance on this site does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent.

Views and opinions expressed by me do not necessarily reflect the view of this site or its owners.

If you have any questions about this content or this disclaimer, please get in touch with me: alex.popoff36@gmail.com

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