What happens when cannabis groups or businesses give to politicians that might help the cannabis industry’s interests but who also support causes that could be viewed as abhorrent to some consumers?
The industry has already had to confront that scenario. In June, Cannabis Wirereported that What A Country! PAC (WACPAC), a committee founded by Florida Republican Representative Carlos Curbelo in 2015 to support immigration reform, was funded primarily by the cannabis industry. Major donors to the PAC included CEOs and executives of some of the biggest cannabis companies, including MedMen, Columbia Care, LivWell, and Palliatech Inc. (now known as Curaleaf).
While Curbelo, who lost his reelection bid last week, took a moderate approach to immigration — he supports DACA, for example—and the purpose of the PAC, according to its Facebook page, is to support “candidates for US congress who are committed to reforming America’s immigration laws,” the PAC donated thousands to politicians with staunchly conservative, and in some cases extreme, immigration views.
After Cannabis Wire revealed the PAC’s donors, Daniel Yi, a spokesperson for one of WACPAC’s top contributors, MedMen, said the company was unaware that the PAC was related to immigration, and that its intention was only to support Curbelo, a cannabis advocate. That explanation didn’t sit well with cannabis proponents. In light of MedMen’s donation to WACPAC, an activist group called the Massachusetts Recreational Consumer Council announced that it was going to boycott a local event sponsored by the company. (MedMen told both Cannabis Wire and the Massachusetts group that it had requested a refund from Curbelo and WACPAC. According to the most recent campaign filings, the donation has not been refunded.)
Yi told Cannabis Wire in June that the WACPAC donation and aftermath was a “learning experience,” adding “We’re not a political entity. We’re a business,” he said. “And we’re in the business of cannabis.”