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a gloved hand holds cannabis flowers in a close-up photo
Reuters/Amir Cohen
Cannabis companies are getting a closer look from the feds.

Does the cannabis industry have a monopoly problem?

Jenni Avins
Member exclusive by Jenni Avins

On June 24, US Department of Justice whistleblower John Elias testified that attorney general William Barr ordered investigations of 10 cannabis mergers in the 2019 fiscal year based on personal dislike of the industry. If that sounds like a lot, he said, it is. According to Elias’s testimony (pdf), those reviews accounted for 29% of the antitrust division’s full merger investigations during that period.

“These mergers involve companies with low market shares in a fragmented industry; they do not meet established criteria for antitrust investigations,” wrote Elias, whose job description includes prosecuting price-fixing schemes in the pharmaceutical industry. Elias claimed that his team prepared a memo for Barr explaining as much, but that Barr rejected the recommendation. “The rationale for doing so centered not on an antitrust analysis, but because he did not like the nature of their underlying business.”

Now, more than 30 members of Congress are backing a resolution to investigate and impeach Barr for abusing his power and misusing resources (pdf) based on Elias’s testimony.

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