In the last 4 years, the newly formed legal cannabis industry has emerged from $2 billion to become a $35 billion industry by market cap. Several new American companies have come to dominate the market. We will show in this article that three of the major US cannabis brands include at their helm people like: the son of a wealthy heir, a megadonor, and a philanthropist who replaced the ex-CIA director as head of the Truman Center for National Policy (TCNP), a fellow of the TCNP and the CFR (Council of Foreign Relations), and Vicepresident of a well-known investment and advisory firm founded by an ex-Secretary of State, a CIA agent and liaison with the Russian government in the 1990s (and also CFR fellow) who advised the Russian government and participated actively in the transition of Russia to a free market economy and last but not least CIA’s golden boy, Peter Thiel. You be the judge.
Since 2012 voters have passed laws in 39 states making recreational or medical use of marijuana legal or decriminalized . As of April 2022, the vast majority of the market remains underground, about 80-90% of it according to experts. The current state laws give municipalities the power to ban weed as they see fit, consequently, the majority of cities and counties still don’t allow the sale of cannabis, constraining the growth of the legal market. In counties where the law allows pot shops and grows to operate, business owners say high taxes, the limited availability of licenses, and other expensive regulatory costs put the legal market out of reach for many.
In spite of all the legal hurdles in the last few years, we have witnessed the total market cap of the emergent cannabis business increase at a fast pace. From a 2 US$ billion total market cap in 2017, the sector reached $34 US Billion in April 2022. Even more significative than the rapid increase in total market cap is the fact that the USA share of the total global market cap of the new industry has increased constantly and rapidly from a 25% in January 2018 to 50% in January 2020 to the current 75% of the total market cap. In the meantime, many politicians are opposed to legislation legalizing marijuana at the federal level  which poses the biggest hurdle (to getting such a measure through the 50-50 split Senate) for any bill to remove cannabis from the federal list of controlled substances and help repair our criminal justice system .
In 2015 Thiel’s Founders Fund became the first VC (Venture Capital) firm to back a cannabis startup , Privateer holdings which is the fund behind the Tilray brand. In 2018, Tilray went public on the NASDAQ , becoming the first cannabis company to debut on a major U.S. stock exchange. Several new cannabis brands followed Tilray in 2018-2019 making the stock values of the more established brands, like Tilray or Canadian Canopy Growth, soar taking the total market cap value of the sector to around $50 US Billion for a few months in 2019 only to come back to more reasonable expected values of around $20 Billion for early 2020. A rise in cannabis special purpose acquisition companies – better known as SPACs  – provided private marijuana and hemp companies an unprecedented opportunity to raise money and go public. Cannabis SPAC IPOs raised more than $2.6 billion (in 2019) and more than $700 million in the first half of 2020. The market saw several cannabis IPOs in 2020 and 2021, which caused a new spike in the total market value of the sector to new heights of around $65 US Billion for a few months in late 2021.
Four American brands have emerged suddenly as the dominant and highest valued cannabis companies with market caps over $3 US billion each: Curaleaf, Green Thumb, Trulieve, and Tilray . We should note that even though Tilray is listed as a Canadian company on some financial sites the founders and main shareholders are all US citizens. In fifth place, we find Canadian Canopy Growth whose market value has fallen in early 2022 to under $3 US billion since a peak of $16 US billion it reached in 2019. We will show next that 3 of the 4 currently most valued companies have wealthy founders or investors clearly connected with the US National Security State.
GREEN THUMB, KOVLER’s FAMILY, AND THE TRUMAN CENTER FOR NATIONAL POLICY
Ben Kovler is the co-founder and chief executive officer at Chicago-based Green Thumb Industries, which launched in 2014 . Over the past eight years, Kovler built one of the largest multistate operators (MSOs) in the USA, with operations in thirteen states and strategic partnerships with some of the most successful cannabis brands. The company earned more than $500 million in total revenues in 2020 and $894 million in 2021  and has an estimated market capitalization of $4 billion as of April 2022. Ben Kovler is one of the members of this new wave of white Kings of Pot, who like the rest presents himself as an entrepreneur in a very competitive and fast-growing industry, where “there is no template for success nor survival”. Like the rest of the new Kings of Pot, Ben Kovler never mentions the role that his family wealth and high-level connections with government officials and with the US National Security State have played in his success.
The Blum-Kovler family was heir to the oldest USA bourbon brand, Jim Beam. The brand was the No. 1 selling bourbon worldwide by the time Peter Kovler’s father died in 2003. The brand was sold in 2014 to Japanese Suntory Holdings for $16bn . It is not known how much the Kovler family profited from the sale or if the family is still involved in some fashion with the Jim Beam brand. Since the 1970’s the Kovler-Blum family has dedicated its fortune to philanthropy and giving back to the less fortunate. There are several foundations carrying the Kovler name: The Judy and Peter Blum Kovler Foundation, The Marjorie Kovler Center for Victims of Torture, The University of Chicago Medicine Kovler Diabetes Center, The Margaret Kovler Oncology Labs. The family also counts itself as one of the many US megadonors to other causes, for instance, Judy and Peter Kovler donated more than $5 mln to the Obama presidential Center .
The name of Peter Kovler is associated with the Center for National Policy , a well non-profit policy think-Tank founded in 1981 and headquartered in Washington DC dedicated to advancing the economic and national security of the United States. Peter Kovler, director of the Marjorie Kovler Fund, served as chairman of the center, succeeding Leon Panetta (CIA director and Secretary of Defense in the Obama administration). Previous presidents and chairmen of CNP include three former U.S. Secretaries of State: Madeleine Albright, Edmund Muskie, and Cyrus Vance plus some ambassadors, and members of Congress. Since 1996, the CNP awards the Muskie Award, presented at the National Press Club annual event honoring the recipients’ demonstrated commitment to public service and significant contributions to the country. Until 2013, the Truman Center for National Policy operated on its own as the Center for National Policy (CNP). In 2013, the CNP merged with the Truman National Security Project and became what is today the Truman Center for National Policy (TCNP) . The Truman Center for National Policy works in tandem with the Truman National Security Project, which “unites and equips a diverse community of American leaders to produce innovative and principled solutions to complex national security challenges”.
TILRAY, ALBRIGHT STONEBRIDGE GROUP, AND PETER THIEL’S FOUNDERS FUND
Seattle-based Privateer Holdings is an American private equity firm that invests in the legal cannabis industry. Privateer was formed in 2011 by Brendan Kennedy, Michael Blue, and Christian Groh. A startup needs to be 4-5 years old to get investment from the fund. The usual deals for the fund are in the range of 10-50$ million . Some of Privateer Portfolio includes Leafly, Marley Natural, and Tilray . Privateer’s main investors so far have been Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund and Micheal Auerbach’s Subversive Capital. The connections of Peter Thiel to the CIA are well known . Thiel co-founded CIA In-Q-Tel’s startup Palantir, a software platform that pulls together data collected by a wide range of spy and other government agencies and is used today by many governments to spy on their citizenry.
Michael Auerbach who defines himself as an “entrepreneur, investor, business consultant, and private diplomat” was a Foreign Policy and National Security nerd who surprisingly was also a fellow at the Truman National Security Project, which as we already mentioned earlier works in tandem with the Truman Center for National Policy [`17]. Auerbach was also a fellow of the USA Council on Foreign Relations. In 2012 Auerbach became Senior Vice President of the Albright Stonebridge Group  (a premier global strategic advisory and commercial diplomacy group founded by ex-Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that has seen several ex-employees join the Biden administration in top positions) . In 2013 Auerbach founded Subversive Capital dedicated to invest in radical companies that require sophisticated regulatory strategies (i.e. cannabis). He also sits on the board of Privateer Holdings, Tilray, Duco Advisors.
Founded in 2014, Tilray was one of Canada’s first licensed producers. Tilray was incorporated in the USA, and headquartered in New York City. Privateer owns 76% of Tilray. At the end of 2014, it secured the first institutional investment in the cannabis industry from San Francisco-based Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund. In 2016, became the first cannabis company to conduct a clinical trial approved by Health Canada. The trial evaluated the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis. Tilray is a global pioneer in the research, cultivation, production, and distribution of cannabis and cannabinoids. Tilray has operations in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Latin America, with growing facilities in Germany and Portugal. In September 2018, Tilray became the first Canadian cannabis company to legally export medical cannabis to the U.S. for a clinical trial. Michael Auerbach was Tilray’s director from January 2018 to April 2021. Tilray’s net revenue was $513.1 million during 2021, up 27% from $405.3 million in 2020  .
Tilray also has since 2019 an incredible roaster of renowned government leaders on its advisory board: James O’Brien (served as Senior Advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State and Vice-Chair of Albright Stonebridge Group (ASG)), Governor Howard Dean (Former Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chairman and Presidential Candidate), Michael Steele (Lieutenant Governor of Maryland and chairman of the Republican National Committee (RNC)), Lloyd Axworthy (Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs), Joschka Fischer (served as Foreign Minister and Vice-Chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany), Jaime Gama (longest-serving Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs), John Gosse Downer (the longest-serving Minister for Foreign Affairs in Australia), Donald McKinnon (New Zealand’s longest-serving Minister of Foreign Affairs), María Lorena Gutiérrez Botero (served as Minister of Commerce, Industry and Tourism of Colombia) and Lorna Marsden (former Canadian Senator from Ontario) .
CURALEAF AND BORIS JORDAN
Number 1 in total revenues amongst all the new publicly traded cannabis companies is Curaleaf. The total revenue for the year ended 2021 was a record $1,210 million, an increase of 93% from $627 million for the year ended 2020 . Curaleaf has a market cap of nearly US$5 billion as of April 2022. Headquartered in Wakefield (Massachusetts) and founded in 2010, it produces and distributes cannabis products in North America, operating dispensaries in 23 states.
Curaleaf was founded in 2010 under the name PalliaTech. It operated in New Jersey and had a research center in Colorado. In 2013, Boris Jordan’s Sputnik Group purchased a 35% stake in the company. The company name was changed to Curaleaf in 2018, just prior to going public on Toronto’s CSX under the symbol CURA . It also raised $400 million in what was considered the largest stock offering in cannabis industry history at the time. Boris Jordan is Curaleaf’s executive chairman and controlling shareholder with 31% of the company. Backing Jordan is Andrei Blokh, a billionaire Russian “dairy tycoon”. Blokh holds U.S. citizenship but lives in Moscow . He owns 28% of Curaleaf’s stock. In order to understand who is Boris Jordan, we need to go back in time three decades.
The important role that Boris Jordan played in the quick and rough transition of Russia from a centralized to a free market economy from 1992 to 2003 cannot be underestimated. Surprisingly he remains an unknown personality to the public at large. A short story could give us a glimpse of his role. Two months after the September 11 attacks Russian President Vladimir Putin was the first foreign leader to visit the USA. His visit started in Houston where he was welcomed by ex-president George H.W. Bush and where he spent some time at the Bushes ranch in Texas. From there Putin traveled to New York. During all his visits he was shadowed by a 35 years old unknown Russian-American born in New York who occupied no public nor official position in the US government whatsoever, Boris Jordan . “Normally, an American who doesn’t hold any official position would not mix with the Russian Foreign Minister, the head of Putin’s personal security service, and the Secretary of the Russian Security Council at all, let alone on a diplomatic trip abroad. But there he was. In fact, Boris Jordan was following along right behind Putin when Rudy Giuliani showed the Russian President around the ruins of the World Trade Center” 
Boris Jordan was born in New York to Russian parents. His grandfather was a Russian Minister prior to the 1917 Russian Revolution. His father, an outspoken anti-soviet, left Russia in 1918 and lived in Yugoslavia and France before migrating to the USA in 1956 where Boris was born ten years later. His father worked for a bank and was not wealthy at all. In fact, the family struggled to raise several children and had to borrow money in order to pay for their college education . Jordan earned a bachelor’s degree in Russian–American Economic Relations from New York University where he graduated in 1988 at 22 years old. His first visit to Russia was in 1987 before he graduated . Boris moved up quickly and sometime before his graduation we find him suddenly working in Washington D.C. as an assistant to a congressman . He most likely was recruited by the C.I.A at an early age before graduation. His ancestry, his character, and the fact he spoke perfect Russian made him a perfect candidate to act as a high-level American advisor to the K.G.B (later F.S.B.) regarding the necessary measures to quickly and irreversibly transform the nearly bankrupt Russian economy.
He was offered a job in the Moscow office of Credit Suisse in 1991 when he was 25 years old . From 1992 to 1995 he co-headed the Eastern European and Russian operations of Credit Suisse First Boston. During his tenure, Credit Suisse FB became a leading investment bank in Russia, pioneering privatization, corporate finance, and securities trading. While working for Credit Suisse FB, Jordan advised the Yeltsin government on how to implement the Russian voucher privatization scheme. He worked together with Prime Minister Yegor Gaidar and Anatoly Chubais. Jordan’s Credit Suisse advised, traded off, and also profited enormously from this process . He quit his position as CEO of Russian TV channel NTV  and left Russia in 2003, apparently “having proved insufficiently compliant toward President Vladimir V. Putin and members of the Kremlin family” . Curiously he has maintained many interests and investments in Russia until the present time. He was the co-founder of Renaissance Capital Group in 1995, Russia’s first international investment bank. He is also the founder, and currently President and CEO of The Sputnik Group, a private equity, and advisory group.
TAKING DOWN TRULIEVE: FRAMING J.T. BURNETTE.
We have proved the clear connections between 3 of the 4 largest American cannabis companies and the National Security State. What we are seeing at play is not something new. The State is covertly taking an active role in the financing, growth, and consolidation of this new industry. A similar process took place in the 1990s with the creation of what are nowadays the Big Tech industry behemoths by William Perry (Secretary of Defense) and Alvin B. Krongard (CIA) through the investment banking fronts of Hambrecht & Quist and Alex Brown & Sons respectively. In the long term, there are plans for the consolidation of the industry in a few American companies. These will become the Pepsi Cola’s and Coca-Cola’s of the cannabis industry, hundred billion-dollar companies that will dominate the industry globally and that will be covertly under government control.
Unfortunately, the act of “picking winners” is not a harmless enterprise because picking winners implies also picking losers. The state has to clear the way of obstacles for those who have been selected to grow and dominate. Those who have not been selected for glory or who do not have the necessary connections will have to be removed from this staged race one way or another. They will be bought most likely, otherwise, they will have to be taken down by other means.
Trulieve was one of Florida’s first medical marijuana operators, launching after Florida lawmakers in 2014 approved non-euphoric cannabis for patients with severe epilepsy . The company blossomed after Florida voters in 2016 passed a constitutional amendment that broadly legalized medical marijuana. Trulieve had revenues of $938.4 million in 2021, up 80% year over year. It is an industry leader in U.S. retail with a network of 162 dispensaries, up 116% from 2020, supported by over 4.0 million square feet of cultivation and processing capacity, up 107% from 2020, as of March 30, 2022 . In October 2021 Trulieve, Florida’s largest medical marijuana operator, became the nation’s biggest cannabis retailer, after closing on a $2.1 billion deal to acquire former competitor Harvest Health & Recreation Inc. The transaction marked a major development in Florida, where Harvest held one of the 22 licenses available to cultivate, process, and sell medical marijuana.
In November 2021 J. T. Burnette, husband of Trulieve CEO Kim Rivers was convicted on public corruption charges and sentenced to three years in federal prison and fined $1.25 million . A recorded conversation between Burnette and undercover FBI agents revealed his involvement in “tweaking” state regulations. This includes restricting certain competitors from qualifying for a Florida medical marijuana business license. On the recording, Burnette went into detail about how he worked with then State Rep. Halsey Beshears, brother of Trulieve board of director Thad Beshears, to make the changes possible. In my opinion, the Trulieve CEO’s husband was the target of a government operation aimed at causing difficulties for Trulieve to renew its licenses and continue operations as a consequence of the reputational damage caused by this conviction [36,37]. This will make it easier for one of the other dominant players to buy the company in the near future.
Many of the largest businesses in the world have been and are involved in shady practices to get to where they are today and to stay there. And there is unfortunately no exception when it comes to the cannabis industry. What is the difference then between Trulieve and the rest? The other 3 major American companies have connections at a much higher level, connections that Trulieve lacks. What are advisory companies like the late Madeleine Albright’s ASG if not companies that for a substantial fee buy you the necessary connections to make things happen? For the other 3 players, the orders came from the top down to the regulators and to the enforcers to smooth the way for Green Thumb, Tilray, and Curaleaf.
We will mention briefly that some of the other cannabis companies also seem to be controlled by powerful USA interests or have other government connections. Canada Canopy Growth is actually controlled by an American multinational and 500 company , Constellation Brands Inc, which is the largest beer import company in the USA and 3rd largest market share of all major beer suppliers. In April 2019, Canopy Growth was the world’s largest cannabis company, based on market capitalization. Its value skyrocketed after the Founder’s Fund-backed Tilray and other companies entered the stock market in 2018-2019. Its value has fallen ever since to 5th place, which caused the ousting of the primary founder, Bruce Linton . Canopy Growth is also a strategic investor and strategic partner of the 7th company by market cap Canadian TerrAscend . In 6th place, we have Chicago-based Verano Holdings. A recent anti-trust lawsuit alleges that Verano Holdings and Green Thumb together with two other Chicago based companies Akerna and Surterra (controlled by the Pritzker and Wrigley families respectively) run a de-facto Chicago marijuana cartel with overlapping management and directorships, selling each other products, monopolizing the available licenses and overpricing . In 8th place, we have Chicago-based Cresco Labs, whose founders Charles Bachtell and Robert Sampson, were previously executives of one of the largest mortgage banks in the country Guaranteed Rate . Charles Bachtell is an attorney who was recognized already as one of the foremost authorities on regulatory affairs and compliance in heavily regulated industries. The Canadian registered Cronos Group Founder, Mike Gorenstein, was a Sullivan & Cromwell LLP attorney and Vice President and General Counsel at Alphabet Partners, LP before founding Cronos in 2012 .
The legal cannabis industry has reached a state of maximum hypocrisy. While a few wealthy and well-connected to the National Security State are positioning themselves to profit enormously from the growth of this new industry millions of people are still incarcerated or have criminal records for cannabis-related crimes. While the US-based cannabis industry has already become a $34 US Billion industry (as of April 2022) some politicians are still turning the issue of marijuana legalization into a divisive issue. Here we are, 2022, and the cannabis industry still has to navigate a federal ban and a jungle of diverse state and local regulations. Amazingly, none of this has stopped the USA intelligence services from covertly taking control of a new industry that is poised to become a $200-$300 US billion industry in the near future. Three of the major US cannabis brands include people like: the son of a wealthy heir and philanthropist who replaced the ex-CIA director as head of the Truman Center for National Policy (TCNP), a fellow of the TCNP and the CFR (Council of Foreign Relations), and Vicepresident of a well-known investment and advisory firm founded by an ex-Secretary of State, a CIA agent (and also CFR fellow) who advised and actively helped the Russian government to transition Russia to a free market economy and last but not least the CIA golden boy with the Midas touch himself, Peter Thiel. None of these new cannabis billionaires belong to the group of millions of African American or Hispanic American youth that for several decades have been and still are being incarcerated for small cannabis-related crimes. None of these new Kings of Pot had any knowledge whatsoever about the cannabis industry prior to founding their companies. The newly crowned Kings of Pot are all white, all wealthy, and all individuals connected with the National Security State. Welcome to the Land of Opportunity.
Categories: State & Corporate Crime