A Department of Justice whistleblower has said that Attorney General Bill Barr improperly went after cannabis suppliers because of his personal feelings about the industry.
According to testimony released this wek, John Elias, a career department employee, asserts that 29% of the Antitrust Division’s merger probes targeted the cannabis industry were due to Barr’s personal opinion on the drug. Elias cited Barr’s explanation for pursuing one such investigation in March 2019.
“Rejecting the analysis of career staff, Attorney General Barr ordered the Antitrust Division to issue Second Request subpoenas,” Elias said. “The rationale for doing so centered not on an antitrust analysis, but because he did not like the nature of their underlying business.”
Elias also suggested that multiple people in the division were aware of Barr’s anti-cannabis inclinations. He indicate that several mergers were documented by department staff as appearing “unlikely to raise significant competitive concerns.”
During an all-staff meeting in September 2019, Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, the head of the Antitrust Division, “acknowledged that the investigations were motivated by the fact that the cannabis industry is unpopular ‘on the fifth floor,’ a reference to Attorney General Barr’s offices in the DOJ headquarters building,” Elias wrote.
“Personal dislike of the industry is not a proper basis upon which to ground an antitrust investigation.”