John Elias tells the U.S. House Judiciary Committee about what he seen as unfair treatment of the cannabis industry by the Justice Department.

A profession U.S. Justice Department lawyer testified Wednesday that antitrust investigations of 10 cannabis mergers since March 2019 have been “not even close to meeting established criteria” for such opinions and agreed they amounted to industry “harassment” by Attorney General William Barr.

John Elias informed a U.S. House Judiciary Committee listening to that antitrust staff have been informed at an all-staff assembly in September 2019 that cannabis was unpopular “on the fifth floor,” a reference to Barr.

The ensuing investigations represented a big chunk of the antitrust division’s circumstances and drew in employees from different DOJ sections to help within the probes, in accordance to Elias.

Elias stated he requested the DOJ inspector common to look at whether or not abuses of authority and misconduct occurred throughout what was a wave of cannabis antitrust merger opinions.

Cannabis corporations have been compelled to produce tens of millions of paperwork however in all probability solely a small portion have been reviewed, Elias testified.

In one case, antitrust division data, in accordance to Elias, present that the closing of the investigative course of started earlier than the paperwork had been uploaded and made obtainable for viewing by division employees.

In different phrases, antitrust attorneys had not even seemed on the paperwork whereas the investigation remained open.

U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, requested Elias if it was truthful to characterize the state of affairs as Barr leveling a type of “harassment” towards an industry he personally disliked.

“I think that’s a fair way to characterize it, yes,” Elias stated.

Earlier, Elias testified that “the personal dislike of an industry is not a valid basis upon which to ground an antitrust investigation.”

Elias was one of a number of witnesses at a listening to that targeted on Barr’s conduct in a quantity of circumstances. The listening to was titled: “Oversight of the Department of Justice: Political Interference and Threats to Prosecutorial Independence.”

MedMen-PharmaCann deal

Elias didn’t identify any of the cannabis mergers, besides the primary one reviewed by the antitrust division: the $682 million MedMen-PharmaCann merger deal.

He informed the committee that Barr had phoned the “antitrust leadership” and ordered a full evaluation regardless of the deal not being shut to assembly merger evaluation thresholds.

The request resulted within the manufacturing of 1.three million paperwork involving 40 personnel to evaluation, Elias stated.

MedMen and PharmaCann, he famous, deserted the merger, citing delays in acquiring regulatory approvals.

MedMen and PharmaCann didn’t instantly reply to Marijuana Business Daily inquiries for remark.

Rep. Doug Collins, a Georgia Republican, attacked Elias, noting, amongst different issues, that the workplace investigating his whistleblower grievance concluded that it was cheap for the DOJ to search further info on the merger offers as a result of of the distinctive challenges offered by the cannabis industry.

Elias, in his testimony, make clear the extent of the opinions, and the way it preoccupied the antitrust division:

  • Nine cannabis circumstances accounted for 29% of the antitrust division’s full-review or second-request merger investigations in fiscal yr 2019.
  • At one level, cannabis investigations accounted for 5 of the eight lively merger investigations within the workplace that’s liable for the transportation, power and agriculture sectors of the U.S. economic system. The investigations have been so quite a few that employees from different places of work have been pulled in to help, together with staff from the telecommunications, media and expertise places of work.
  • In many of these investigations, employees calculated market shares far smaller than the double-digit shares that ordinarily set off a full antitrust evaluation. In two situations, employees decided on the outset that the merging corporations operated in numerous geographies and didn’t compete in any respect.
  • In a number of situations, employees sought to make the investigation much less burdensome on the events by narrowing the subpoenas. “Political leadership” at DOJ refused such requests, Elias stated.

Jeff Smith will be reached at [email protected]

Source link