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Russian Oligarch Ties to Curaleaf & Other Cannabis Companies Further Examined

According to Vice, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich invested in Curaleaf and other prominent cannabis companies.

Abramovich is a multi-billionaire with a wide range of business holdings worldwide. In the United Kingdom, he owns a very prominent soccer team.

With the dictatorial Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine last year, the business dealings of the business moguls or oligarchs he supports have come to light in the wake of U.S. sanctions.

It’s already known that Curaleaf, one of the largest cannabis corporations that is a Multi-State Operator (MSO), was bankrolled by Abramovich. Vice reported he dumped $225 million into Curaleaf.

Files of an accounting firm based in the island nation of Cyprus were leaked, which confirmed Curaleaf’s ties to Abramovich that were long suspected. He invested through a shell company called Cetus Investments.

Vermont Investigation of Curaleaf

The Vermont Cannabis Control Board is investigating Curaleaf for its Russian ties.

Board Chair James Pepper said that Curaleaf could lose its license to operate in Vermont if it finds they hid the ties to Abramovich.

The Vermont Cannabis Control Board contacted Massachusetts and Connecticut to see what they had found about their Russian ties after a journalist pursuing the story notified them of the connection.

The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission is already investigating Curaleaf’s ties to Abramovich.

“We have fully complied with all requirements regarding disclosure of our ownership and financing in the state of Vermont,” Curaleaf spokesperson Stephanie Cunha told VTDigger. “We have a collaborative and transparent working relationship with VT regulators and have nothing to hide.”

It operates two dispensaries under different names in Vermont: “Phytocare Vermont” and the “Vermont Patients Alliance.”

Curaleaf and New Jersey

Curaleaf has had a heavy presence in South Jersey for years. They operate a vertically integrated medical and adult-use dispensary with three locations that grows, makes, and sells its products.

“We cannot confirm or deny any investigations,” a New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) official said in response to whether they were indeed investigating Curaleaf.

Last fall, workers in their Edgewater dispensary joined the UFCW Local 360 union.

Curaleaf has been known to sell moldy medical cannabis. Heady NJ investigated the issue, which led to a cannabis recall in 2021.

Russia, after the fall of the Soviet Union, could be called the “Wild West,” where the government sold off its assets to connected individuals who were often shady. Many opportunists like Curaleaf Chairman Boris Jordan made a fortune there. During that time, he became close to Abramovich, who also made a fortune then.

Professionals in the cannabis industry regularly call it the “Wild West” for a good reason. While there are cannabis regulatory financial disclosure forms that must be filled out, shady money often finds a way to stay in the dark in the newly legalized industry.

Investing in Eaze and Other Cannabis Companies

According to Vice, Abramovich also invested in Eaze, a California-based cannabis delivery company.

Eaze claims it did not know Abramovich was behind Cetus Investments. It

has made itself known in New Jersey by sponsoring cannabis conventions and cannabis industry associations in the past. Initially, they were eager to promote selling their CBD products here.

Abramovich also invested in Tilt Holdings, an MSO which operates under Commonwealth Alternative Care in Massachusetts and Standard Farms in Pennsylvania and Ohio, and the CBD maker Green Gorilla.

Cannabis Legalization for Social Justice Versus Money

Patient advocates and advocates for social justice like the ACLU and the Drug Policy Alliance have been the driving force for cannabis legalization across the United States. But issues with securing funding have made it hard for many cannabis companies to operate in the legal market.

With the cannabis industry only slowly outgrowing its underground legacy operator roots, shady figures with deep pockets are rampant. Many legacy operators themselves are not as shady as one would assume.

These are the individuals who are benefiting the most from cannabis legalization.

Many social justice-minded minority individuals and legacy operators in other states have had trouble staying afloat. Many returned to their legacy roots in California when the state’s adult-use cannabis regulations became too burdensome.

To make the “Whore marijuana” into “Lady Cannabis,” states imposed a great deal of red tape with the support of the MSOs that could pay the bill. Federal prohibition, where Uncle Sam thinks powder cocaine is healthier than cannabis, also greatly cuts into the profit margins to the detriment of both small and large cannabis companies.

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