Attorney General Bill Barr
A Department of Justice whistleblower alleges that antitrust investigations into cannabis company mergers were motivated by Attorney General Bill Barr’s personal distaste for pot.
John Elias, a department employee, testified in documents released on Tuesday that Barr targeted a merger between cannabis companies MedMen and PharmaCann. In a meeting, staff advised Barr that they believed the merger did not meet established criteria for antitrust investigations, but Barr rejected the advice because he “did not like the nature of their underlying business,” the whistleblower alleges.
The merger was terminated last year following the investigation, surprising people in the industry, according to Marijuana Business Daily, and MadMen fired its chief financial officer.
Elias alleges that 29% of the Antitrust Division’s merger probes targeted the marijuana industry.
Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim “acknowledged that the investigations were motivated by the fact that the cannabis industry is unpopular ‘on the fifth floor,’ a reference to Attorney General Barr’s offices in the DOJ headquarters building,” Elias wrote. “Personal dislike of the industry is not a proper basis upon which to ground an antitrust investigation.”
Barr has also been criticized for personally influencing investigations into President Donald Trump’s friends, including aid Roger Stone.
Aaron Zelinsky, one of four prosecutors who quit the Stone case, alleged that he and his colleagues were repeatedly pressured to cut Stone “a break” due to his relationship with Trump and because Barr “was ‘afraid of the President.’”
Barr was also involved in the firing of the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, U.S. Attorney Geoff Berman, who had investigated Trump’s friends.
Published: June 23, 2020
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