SEC announces “halt” of a “$60 Million cannabis offering fraud.”
This week, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission announced that it “obtained an emergency order” to stop a “Ponzi-like scheme” by a company called Integrated National Resources Inc., d/b/a WeedGenics.
The company’s owners had “raised more than $60 million from investors to expand their cannabis operations, but have instead used the majority of funds to make $16.2 million in Ponzi-like payments and to enrich themselves” including for “entertainment, jewelry, luxury cars, and residential real estate.”
The company owners are Rolf Max Hirschmann and Patrick Earl Williams. The SEC noted that Hirschmann “used the fake name Max Bergmann” and Williams spent “investor funds on his more public career as a rap musician known as ‘BigRigBaby.’”
“They promised investors everything and then delivered nothing,” said Michele Wein Layne, Director of the SEC’s Los Angeles Regional Office, in the announcement.
Ole Miss names director of new cannabis center.
In 2022, the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy created a National Center for Cannabis Research and Education and, this week, the school named its director: Robert Welch.
For context, this Center is different from the longstanding National Center for Natural Products Research at Ole Miss, which was for decades the only place where it was federally legal to grow cannabis for research. (Now, as Cannabis Wire has reported, there are eight licensed entities.)
Welch previously worked for Jazz Pharmaceuticals, the company behind the FDA-approved CBD drug Epidiolex.
In the school’s announcement, they note that Welch’s “collaboration with epilepsy centers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital, Alabama Children’s Hospital and others helped garner FDA approval for the cannabidiol oral solution Epidiolex, the first plant-based cannabinoid medication to receive FDA approval.”
This week, U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace was in the spotlight during WSWA cannabis panel.
This week, the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America hosted a panel titled Capitol Conversations: Federal Cannabis Reform.
Mace kicked off the event, which also included: Dawson Hobbs, WSWA EVP of government affairs; David Culver, SVP of public affairs at U.S. Cannabis Council; Shanita Penny, director of the Center of Excellence at the Coalition for Cannabis Policy, Education and Regulation; and Geoff Lawrence, research director of the Reason Foundation.
“This could be one of the few areas where we have bipartisan consensus,” Mace said during her remarks. “The problem isn’t in the House,” she continued, “the problem is in the Senate.”
While Mace shouted out bipartisanship, Penny turned toward the industry with a similar sentiment, calling for “radical collaboration.”
“Whether we are addressing incremental policy reform or if we have the chance to go after something that is more comprehensive,” she said, if reform supporters “wrap our heads around embracing advocates and industries of all kinds, and leveraging the experiences, the relationships and the resources that they have, we can be successful. We have to stop the infighting. We can’t be a distraction from lawmakers.”
Dama Financial amends SAFE Banking testimony to offer strong support.
First, some backstory: Michelle Sullivan, chief risk & compliance officer for Dama Financial, spoke during this month’s SAFE Banking Act hearing. It was received by some as wishy washy at best.
Sullivan, for example, urged that lawmakers consider amending the SAFE Banking Act language to include a “tougher framework” and tighter rules on areas like risk limits, deposit ratios, due diligence, and ongoing monitoring requirements, “especially as it pertains to cash deposits and legacy cash,” as Cannabis Wire reported. Sullivan suggested a “pause” on SAFE Banking Act efforts so that members of Congress can study these issues, among others.
The original testimony caught the ear of Kim Rivers, CEO of MSO Trulieve, who tweeted last week that she spoke with the CEO of Dama Financial and was “hopeful” that leadership at Dama Financial would issue a statement of their full-throated support because “their support did not adequately come thru at the hearing.”
This week, Dama Financial amended their testimony.
“As the CEO of Dama Financial, we took an overly myopic focus drafting our testimony on banking compliance rather than balancing the testimony with why the benefits of the legislation outweigh the desire for future enhancements. This was my oversight,” Patrick O’Boyle said in a statement.
“The cannabis industry continues to show growth in the U.S. market and is developing at a faster rate as more states are transitioning from medical-only to fully legal in a shorter time frame – now is not the time to stunt the financial infrastructure that would support this growth,” O’Boyle said. “By giving financial institutions the ability to work with cannabis businesses and supporting the SAFE Banking Act, the Senate would not only help safeguard Americans by reducing cash on the streets, but would also be supporting smart economic policies that greatly contribute to our country’s financial health.”