OPINION: Medical Marijuana Loophole

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An opinion piece by William Perry.

Governor Brian Kemp just signed the Medical Marijuana bill into law. Now that it’s law, he could become a shareholder or partner in the weed business and not even have to tell anyone.
The law would allow companies to grow marijuana plants, and produce and sell cannabis oil for approved patients on a state registry.
And like it or not, there is a loophole in the bill that should concern everyone. Here it is…
House Bill 324 states “No licensee shall subcontract for services for the cultivation or processing in any way of marijuana if the subcontractor… blah, blah, blah… is owned wholly or in excess of 5 percent by any state employee or member of a state employee’s family, INCLUDING but not limited to ANY LEGISLATOR, STATE-WIDE PUBLIC OFFICIAL, or employee of a designated university.”
So, in theory, the Governor himself, or any legislator, including one who chairs the committee that regulates medical marijuana production and sales, can own shares in a company that produces or sells cannabis oil in Georgia.
Sure, the bill says they can’t own more 5 percent, BUT THAT MEANS THEY CAN OWN 5 PERCENT! And I’ll tell you soon why the 5% is no accident!
In fact, it’s pretty magical.
But first, you might be asking, “what’s the big deal? It’s only 5 percent!”
Well, it’s a big deal because that’s one heck of a lobbying tool – give the Governor or a legislator a 5% cut and astronomically increase your odds of getting a license to produce medical marijuana.
Second, medical marijuana is a big business. Just one company, California based Harborside Health Center, claims profits in excess of $22 million annually. Who wouldn’t want 5% of that??
I can hear you thinking… surely no politician would risk the political backlash for owning a 5% share of a company they regulate. And they have to disclose their financial interests every year, right?
Well, sort of, but not really.
Let me introduce you to a loophole in the law regarding financial disclosure. Now, right here in section 3 of the Personal Financial Disclosure Statement that every public official fills out annually, it says “Identify the name, address and principal activity of any business entity … blah, blah, blah … in which a direct ownership interest: is more than 5% of the total interest in that business…”
Ta da! There it is, your magic 5%!!
So again, in theory, the Governor, or any other state official not only can own 5% of a lucrative medical marijuana business… but they don’t even have to tell the public or press that they do!!
Now don’t get me wrong, I supported the bill, and I’m glad the Governor signed it. But I also think every legislator and state-wide office holder, including the Governor, should publicly pledge not to own any company benefitting from this bill, and they should close this loophole as soon as the next legislative session begins.
I don’t like this loophole, and I’m sure you don’t like it either. So tell your public officials to take the pledge and close that loophole, whether they like it, or not!

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