Earlier this year, Wisconsin lawmakers unanimously voted to expand the state’s highly restrictive medical cannabis program, improving access for families with children in need. While the bill gained support from the entire Legislature, one Wisconsin senator seems to have had more skin in the game than the average politician.
According to newly revealed public disclosures, Republican Sen. Frank Lasee casted his medical marijuana vote as an investor in Canopy Growth Corp., a major Canadian cannabis company that has an extensive production operation and multiple brands. The reviewed documents show that Lasse purchased $5,000 to $50,000 worth of stock in the company back in 2016.
Although the Wisconsin lawmaker is financially invested in the bustling cannabis industry, he’s been much less forthright when it comes to expressing public support for the plant. Billed as a business-friendly fiscal conservative, Lasee has kept his views on marijuana legalization private. As expected, the news of his investment has stirred Democratic lawmakers like Senator Jon Erpenbach.
"If it's a good enough investment for Frank, then it's good enough for people who benefit from it medically," Sen. Erpenbach said.
In a GOP-majority Legislature, Sen. Lasee has towed the party line over some of the state’s other marijuana-related matters. In the past, the Republican lawmaker voted against an effort to allow CBD oil to be produced in state. Not only has Lasse refused to comment on the recent news of his cannabis investment, his actions have also raised eyebrows in the state ethics department.
"As a public official, I think that's a natural question for constituents or others to ask. If he has a financial interest in this company that would profit from the expansion of marijuana... then it would be good to know how he squares that with legislation that could profit him,” said Jay Heck, the executive director of Common Cause in Wisconsin.
Since Canopy Growth happens to also be a producer of CBD oil, Lasse’s investment could present a serious conflict of interest in his state-level policymaking. The Canadian company (which you may know of through their partnership with Snoop Dogg) is currently unable to sell cannabis products in the U.S. due to federal law, but they have expanded their reach into Germany, Chile, and Australia.
At the moment, Lasee seems clear of any substantial conflict of interest charges, but many believe he owes an explanation to his voter base and colleagues. However, if the day comes where Canadian cannabis products are legally accepted across the border before the senator vacates his seat, his discreet investment decisions may come back to haunt him.