Liberal Chief Financial Officer Chuck Rifici and co-founder of Tweed Marijuana Inc, has already made $5 million on shares from the company since the Liberals took power.
Tweed, now renamed Canopy Growth Corp, is the country’s largest licensed medical cannabis producer and, despite stepping down as the company’s CEO, Rifici is still its largest shareholder.
The Liberal Party’s promise to legalize cannabis sent medical cannabis stocks rising the day after the election. Canopy shares jumped as high as $2.58, raising the value of Rifici’s 7.8 million shares from $15 to $20 million.
Rifici denied any conflict with his business ventures and connection to the now government of Canada.
“I’m simply a shareholder,” said Rifici. “As for my volunteering as CFO [of] the Liberal Party, I have no role in policy making nor in policy decisions, no role in the transition, no future role in government and, as incorrectly previously reported, I am not an adviser to Justin Trudeau nor am I close to him.
While Canopy is currently only permitted to produce and sell medical cannabis, current CEO Bruce Linton said he expects legalization to allow licensed producers to enter the recreational market.
“I think what [legalization] will do is create a platform which takes the current lawful provision of marijuana on a medical basis and extends that platform to provide it to venues which will be permitted to distribute it,” he said.
Canada’s recreational cannabis market has been valued at potentially $5 billion by Dundee Capital Markets analyst Aaron Salz.
In September, Rifici became a board member with Aurora Cannabis Inc. and CEO of Nesta Holding Co. Ltd., “an investment holding company focused on acquiring, cultivating and monetizing cannabis businesses for the U.S. market.”
The Liberal Party also denied that Rifici offers any conflict of interest with his involvement with the party and the cannabis industry.
Party spokesperson Olivier Duchesneau said Rifici had no role in policy decisions and his involvement ”consists strictly of assisting the board on finance-related matters.”
“Our official position is rooted in the democratic will of our members and has nothing to do with Mr. Rifici’s personal views on the matter,” said Duchesneau.
Co-founder of Democracy Watch Duff Conacher said the relationship between Rifici and the government warrants the use of an “integrity monitor” to avoid a conflict of interest.
After four years of volunteering as CFO, Conacher said Rifici could use this “favour” to call in one of his own.
“[The Liberals] have to ensure the policy they’ve promised to implement is done in a way that fully upholds the public interest and does not protect any private interest that they have ties to,” Conacher said.
Coancher recommended a monitor appointed by the ethics commissioner or the auditor general to ensure “nothing is being done that favour [Rifici’s] companies in particular.”
The Liberals have offered no timeline or plan for their promise to legalize and regulate cannabis.
Linton said he expected the process to take another year before the recreational market is opened up.
“I have the potential to have a lot more customers,” Linton said. “I think we’ll be able to meet the demand.”