June 22 2021,



A series of three recent stories in the Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat discusses hundreds of previously secret text messages between Scott Maddox (D), a lobbyist and politician, and John "J.T." Burnette, the husband of Kim Rivers, CEO of powerhouse MSO Trulieve.

Burnette, a wealthy real estate developer, is scheduled to go on trial next month for federal racketeering, bribery and extortion charges.

  • A federal indictment alleges Burnette bribed Maddox "to take official actions favorable to Burnette's business interests" while Maddox was an elected city commissioner. 
  • Burnette has denied all of the charges, which as far as I could determine, are not related to cannabis. Neither Trulieve nor Rivers has been accused of any wrongdoing.

The Democrat's reporting claims an exchange from January 2017 involves discussions where Maddox fought to preserve a moratorium on dispensaries in Tallahassee, which benefitted Trulieve since it was already operating one in the city.

  • "Keep fighting," Burnette texted to Maddox.

A spokesperson for Trulieve said the reporting included a serious factual error since the company has always opposed dispensary moratoriums, which it considers bad for patients and Florida's MED-only industry.

  • According to the spokesperson, Burnette is not involved with Trulieve except as a minority shareholder in a construction company that Trulieve does business with. "J.T. had no formal role.  As the significant other to our CEO he was a confidante and informal advisor prior to Trulieve attaining its MMTC license."
  • Reporter Jeffrey Schweers did not respond to requests for comment. 

The texts were inadvertently revealed and then taken down on the federal court records site PACER.

  • Maddox, who has plead guilty to charges from a four-year FBI probe of corruption at Tallahassee city hall, is expected to testify against Burnette. 
  • Burnette's lawyers have called for the texts to be ruled inadmissible as evidence. 

An undercover FBI agent involved in the investigation called Tallahassee "the most fucked up place I've ever come to."

Trulieve recently announced it would acquire MSO Harvest for $2.1B.

Quick Hits

  1. Two former consultants for delivery service Eaze received federal prison sentences for their involvement in duping banks into handling more than $100M in payments to the service. Eaze was not charged and said it co-operated with authorities.
  2. Companies Ayr Wellness and TILT Holdings each agreed to pay Massachusetts nearly $300k in fines to settle separate allegations of regulatory violations.
    MJ Biz

AdWeek meets cannabis brand Smarty Plants which advertises its weed without mentioning weed.

The idea is to promote the product without violating "community standards," and it seems to be working. Smarty Plants is one of the fastest growing flower brands in California:  

"[The campaign] will take you down a time-sucking rabbit hole of vintage commercials, ’80s pop culture, fantasy, music and sci-fi on its colorful website, which is decorated with digital UFOs. And through its packaging, it promises “free knowledge” to anyone who scans a QR code."

  • Smarty Plants founder Ryan Goldstein, who's also CMO of cannabis marketing/branding firm Petalfast, said, “The reaction to us not talking about the plant or THC—and not including photos of grow rooms and ‘nugg’ shots—has been overwhelmingly positive and a huge help to our marketing efforts.”

FYI, Smarty Plants recently bestowed the title "director of cool shit" on L.A. rapper and producer Open Mike Eagle.  

Read the whole thing.

Quick Hit

  1. The WSJ says the latest pot stock crash, along with declines in other trendy sectors, evokes the dot-com era.
IN THE NEWS — 6/23/21

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