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Justice Department Whistleblower Testifies On Attorney General Barr’s Cannabis Bias

The DOJ Antitrust Division launched ten “full-scale reviews of merger activity”

During an hours-long Congressional hearing on Wednesday, a whistleblower revealed just how “unpopular” cannabis is under this Justice Department. 

John W. Elias, a career department employee, testified that he reported several antitrust investigations launched under Attorney General William Barr to the Department of Justice Inspector General in order to determine, according to Elias’ testimony,  whether these investigations “constituted an abuse of authority, a gross waste of funds, and gross mismanagement.” 

While cannabis remains federally illegal, several large cannabis companies have expanded their national footprint by becoming “multistate operators,” or MSOs, via acquisitions. Wednesday’s hearing focused, in part, on mergers and acquisitions among these big cannabis companies. 

Elias talked about two specific types of antitrust investigations that occurred under Barr: first, an agreement between President Donald Trump and four automakers in California over fuel emissions; second, those related to the cannabis industry. 

Elias described to House Judiciary committee members how, at Barr’s direction, the Department of Justice Antitrust Division launched ten “full-scale reviews of merger activity” underway in the cannabis industry. 

“It is unacceptable that he would order the Antitrust Division to initiate pretextual investigations into industries that he and the president do not like simply because they do not like them,” House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler said in his opening statement. “It is dangerously misguided for him to threaten frivolous litigation against state and local officials doing their best to contain the COVID-19 epidemic in their communities.” 

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