JT Burnette told FBI agents he helped Florida lawmaker box out competition in #medicalmarijuana law

While on the stand in his own defense, Burnette tells prosecutors recorded conversations were just bravado /1
A conversation between Tallahassee businessman John "J.T." Burnette and undercover FBI agents recorded five years ago seems to confirm what some Florida politicos and marijuana lobbyists have been saying for years. /2
That former state Rep. #HalseyBeshears, R-Monticello, stacked the deck in favor of an application his brother and the spouse of his childhood friend, Burnette, had submitted to the state for one of five licenses to grow and sell medical marijuana. /3
Beshears has consistently denied it. But at Tuesday's hearing, prosecutors played a tape of a secretly recorded 2016 convo in which Burnette boasted about working w/Beshears in 2014 to erect legal barriers for certain applicants looking to get into medical marijuana business./4
“Well, Halsey and I worked through it,” Burnette told agents investigating City Hall corruption during Operation Capital Currency. “I mean it was one afternoon.”

But when questioned under oath Tuesday, Burnette quickly recanted./5
Those legal barriers — added at the last minute to the state's medical marijuana bill that launched a $1.3B industry — incl requirements that nursery seeking appl put up multi-mil$ bonds, have sold 400,000 plants & be in business for 30 continuous years./6
Beshears' brother Thad Beshears sits on the board of one of the applicants that got one of 5 exclusive licenses awarded by the state.

That applicant became #Trulieve, the medical marijuana juggernaut run by #KimRivers, Burnette’s spouse & partner in several former ventures./7
Rivers is the company's top shareholder, with 23.8% of the #Trulieve stock valued at nearly $793M, according to a June filing. As CEO, she receives a compensation package totaling just over $1M, corporate filings show, one of the highest in the industry./8
Thad Beshears is the 2nd largest shareholder w/20% of the co's stock valued at close to $576M.

On the witness stand, Burnette walked back his comments from 5y ago about Beshears & said he gave a false impression to agents b/c he thought it was what they wanted to hear./9
#HalseyBeshears told @TDOnline on Tues no idea what Burnette was talking about & cont to deny any involvement in amendments that favored older, well-established nurseries.
Lobbyists said Beshears was unseen hand writing amendment, supported by FL Nur. Growers & Landscapers/10
Not only did the law limit competition in the NW section of the state where the consortium that became #Trulieve pooled their resources, but it was seen as a way to keep out-of-state competitors at bay, some lobbyists said./11
Beshears left the Legis when he was appointed by #RonDeSantis to run the DBPR. He resigned from that position in January for "health reasons," before it was reported he was on the #BahamasTrip at the center of a sex scandal Matt Gaetz & Joel Greenberg. /12
#Trulieve originated as George Hackney Co., a consortium 3 Big Bend Nurseries –Hackney Nursery -Quincy, May Nursery -Havana & Simpson Farms -Monticello run by Beshears family decades.
The name was changed years later to Trulieve, w/#KimRivers as CEO./13
Under cross-examination by Peter Nothstein, deputy director of the U.S. Department of Justice's Public Integrity Section, Burnette admitted that he was "actively involved" in the creation of #Trulieve /15
Trulieve spokesman Steve Vancore had previously downplayed Burnette’s role in Trulieve’s creation, saying he’s only met Burnette a few times & that he wasn’t present when the name Trulieve was created in Vancore’s office./16
"J.T. had no formal involvement or participation in the formation of Trulieve, Inc.," Vancore said. "As with any significant other who goes on to become a spouse, he was generally informed about the life and matters that his future spouse was involved in."/17
Vancore noted that on redirect, Burnette said his taped statement re:Beshears was not true & undercover agents were egging Burnette on to expand his role. He said Burnette stated under oath he was not involved in Trulieve in any role until after #medicalmarijuana law enacted./18
"Trulieve, Inc. has repeatedly noted in our public filings that he is a minority owner in a co that we contract with," he said. 
Burnette is 10% owner of Burnette Construction, which according to Trulieve's SEC filings, has built its cultivation & processing facilities. /19
An annual report filed in January with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission show Burnette’s construction company received $96 million from Trulieve for property and equipment purchases in 2021. /20
#Trulieve in the spotlight at trial

Tuesday's bombshell admission & recantation is not the 1st time Trulieve has been brought up in the course of the trial. /21
One agent, who called himself Mike Sweet was posing as a medical marijuana entrepreneur with an illicit drug-dealing past who made millions as a drug trafficker. He drew Burnette's interest immediately, according to Sweet's court testimony. /22
Burnette shared with Sweet, who was nicknamed "Sweets," that #Trulieve had just won state approval to grow, process and sell medical marijuana, and beat their biggest competitor, #Surterra, in opening up the state's first dispensary. /23
“The Stanley Cup was to see who opened the 1st dispensary,” Burnette said. “they’re 30 days behind us.”

“Good man,” Sweet said. “You got the corner on the market.”

Burnette said he took undercover agent on a tour of Gadsden warehouse that would house #Trulieve's grow ops./24
“He walked the whole facility and said we were doing some things right,” Burnette said. “I needed that kind of boost of confidence knowing we were on the right track.”/25

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