WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, is the chairman of the House Budget Committee. He purchased stocks in Canopy Growth Corporation, Aurora Cannabis, and Tilray on Nov. 5, according to a filing with the Clerk of the House Representatives and as reported by the Washington Examiner.
Yarmuth is the co-sponsor to H.R. 3884, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement (MORE) Act, which decriminalized cannabis. The legislation passed the House on Dec. 4. He bought $1,000 to $15,000 worth of each of the three cannabis companies’ stocks on Feb. 12, according to a Feb. 19 filing. A spokesperson for Yarmuth said the Kentucky Democrat followed the rules, noting the stock trades came after he signed on as a co-sponsor.
“Congressman Yarmuth purchased the stocks after seeing four states legalize the use of recreational marijuana in the November elections. He was transparent about it and followed all House Ethics and financial disclosure rules,” he wrote in an email to the Washington Examiner.
This eye-brow raising news follows a New York Times report that Rep. Brian Mast, a Florida Republican, bought between $15,000 and $50,000 in Tilray stock on Nov. 6. Mast disclosed the trade on Dec. 1, and three days later, he became one of only five Republicans to vote for the MORE Act. “Congressman Mast has been a longtime advocate for federal decriminalization of marijuana and has bought and sold this stock several times over the past decade, as the required public disclosures show,” a spokesman for Mast said.
Despite the poor optics of politicians appearing to profit from their service, there’s no law (yet) on the statute books to prohibit share purchases by politicians such as this example. (Provided the trades happen after the event and involve no insider trading).
As the momentum for cannabis legalization grows, no doubt so too will more conflicts of interest arise. On Monday, New Jersey became the thirteenth state to legalize recreational marijuana, with Gov. Phil Murphy declaring he was “fulfilling the will of the voters” by signing the bill into law. Republican-leaning states have adopted similar measures, with South Dakota passing medical marijuana legislation currently slated to go into effect on Jan. 1.