CEO’s Husband Sentenced on Cannabis Corruption Charges


Handcuffs over money and American flag

West Virginia opened their first medical cannabis shop; it’s among the first on the east coast to start the official sale of cannabis. It surely won’t be the last as the state is fully ready to take on the market. Adversely, the shop owner may have some issues already brewing. Trulieve, a prominent brand among Eastern and Southern states is that owner. The company was the first to set up shop in Florida when sales started. As the company moves into a new state, however, the corruption they may have had a hand in could soon follow.

This announcement came just days before John Burnette, the husband of Kim Rivers, the CEO of Trulieve, was sentenced to 3 years on corruption charges relating to the Florida cannabis bill for legalization. A Trulieve spokesman said he “had no formal involvement or participation in the formation of Trulieve, Inc.” therefore having no benefit. The specifics of the case, however, make things more unclear than that claim.


John Burnette was convicted back in August of what Ganjapreneur list as 

…conducting a longtime bribery scheme with former Mayor and City Commissioner Scott Maddox and his business partner, Paige Carter-Smith. Additionally, prosecutors said Burnette used his “power and wealth to corrupt the political process.” During the investigation, Burnette told undercover agents that he had influenced Florida House Rep. Halsey Beshears (R) to insert language into Florida‘s medical cannabis bill containing a controversial barrier to entry “that would benefit both Burnette and the Beshears family,” federal prosecutors said. That barrier to entry was a rule requiring nurseries to be in business for 30 years before they could apply for a medical cannabis license, which locked out many Black-owned and other small nurseries from participating in Florida’s lucrative medical cannabis market.

Burnette dismissed the claims; but, the bigger problem here persists. In some capacity, these companies, or at least their affiliates, feel entitled to cannabis. West Virginia is an extremely new market, legalizing in 2017 and opening their first shop just this month. It’s up to their community to curb that entitlement and language like this from appearing in cannabis bills.

The aforementioned tape heard Burnette wave off his and Rivers’ lack of cannabis medical marijuana business knowledge. He claims that he was only bragging. At the moment, Trulieve operates in over 11 States. So in hindsight, it’s hard to deny some bias wasn’t at play here.  

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Joycelin Arnold

Dating back to 2012, Joycelin has wrote for various online Video Game publications covering events and launches regularly. Cannabis has been with her throughout the journey, however. She officially joined cannabis industry in 2016 as a budtender and begin writing for brands and magazines in 2017. Outside of cannabis, she writes science fiction with one published novel, Siren, so far.

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