Cuomo’s medical marijuana law designed for kickbacks, say operatives

Governor Andrew Cuomo’s medical marijuana law — which passed the state legislature last year — is being characterized by local political operatives as “designed for kickbacks.” The law authorizes only a handful of permits statewide — presumably to extort big campaign contributions from applicants for those licenses.

In Western New York alone, there were over 40 applicants.

“The Governor is trying to auction of regional monopolies in a new industry, and will presumably offer them up to the biggest campaign contributor,” says one longtime politico who asked not to be named.

The embattled political operative G. Steven Pigeon has found himself the target of a joint FBI and State Police probe into his political dealings at a time when he is — or was — actively representing several clients who are vying for those licenses.

For years, Pigeon has marketed his relationship with Andrew Cuomo to potential clients. Observers raise the question: How can Pigeon represent several clients who have opposing interests. Among Pigeon’s publicly reported client list who are either vying for medical marijuana licenses directly, or have immense economic interest in their issuance:

  • Seneca Nation of Indians, who have been considering regulatory arbitrage opportunities relating to marijuana
  • Aaron Pierce, the owner of AJ’s Wholesale, a tobacco wholesaler located on the Seneca Nation’s Cattaraugus territory
  • Grand River Enterprises, the manufacturer of ‘Seneca’ brand cigarettes, based on the Six Nations’ Reserve in Ontario
  • H2Grow, a Lewiston based tomato grower
  • Dan Humiston, the owner of a local tanning chain

Making matters even more complicated, The Daily Public is reporting that Pigeon is living in a penthouse apartment at Admiral’s Walk owned by Humiston.

It is unclear if Pigeon’s clients are aware of his conflicts of interest. Ethics rules in the legal profession require that an attorney disclose to his clients any potential conflicts of interest, as they arise.

Operatives are generally in agreement that Pigeon’s political and lobbying activities have been indefinitely neutralized by the investigation — so it is unclear how long his remaining clients will continue to utilize the seemingly conflicted figure for their political dealings and government affairs work.

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