Ethics, criminal violations alleged over contract award in USA

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A grass-roots initiative in the U.S. state of Colorado is challenging the awarding of a contract by state officials under a program designed to advance development of the hemp sector.

A petition by the group posted to social media websites, which has gained the support of state hemp stakeholders, alleges “ethics violations and/or criminal behavior” in the awarding of a contract under the Colorado Hemp Advancement and Management Plan (CHAMP) program to Marijuana Policy Group (MPG), a consultancy. The contract was awarded by the Colorado Department of Agriculture (CDA).

Targets of complaint

The group – vaguely identified as “the Colorado Hemp Industry” – has specifically targeted MPG Managing Director Adam Orens, and Ean Seeb, a special advisor on cannabis to Colorado Gov. Jared Polis, claiming Seeb engineered the awarding of a contract to MPG for development of a Hemp Center of Excellence under CHAMP even before the first meeting of the program’s board of directors and executive committee.

We have no doubt that Marijuana Policy Group was exclusively recommended to the Governor by Mr. Seeb based on . . . past and present relationships (between Seeb and Orens),” the petition suggested.

“The Industry is paying for this contractor, yet we were given no say in who was awarded the contract,” the petition notes, suggesting MPG is not a fit for the project based on its track record of advising businesses “on how to obtain marijuana licenses and maximize marijuana profits in addition to assisting in marijuana policy and over-burdensome regulations here in Colorado and nationwide.”

Ties to pot industry

The petitioners say they are concerned that MPG’s ties to the marijuana industry could negatively affect the Colorado hemp industry’s standing among federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food & Drug Administration, lamenting that the state “has lost its leadership role in the United States related to hemp.”

“We have always and will always remain united against marijuana becoming involved in hemp and we will not allow the CDA to undermine our goals by awarding such an important contract to the Marijuana Policy Group,” the petition says.

Call for restart

The Center of Excellence initiative, established by Colorado lawmakers in 2018, was set up as a vehicle for state hemp industry to advance hemp research and education via grants from the USDA. The state allocated roughly $137,000 for the program from the Industrial Hemp Registration Program Cash Fund.

The petition asks that the state restart the contract process “in accordance with all state laws, rules (and) regulations,” by setting up a committee that would set a framework for the bidding process “to establish rules and parameters for the selection criteria, which would be open to the public.”

The group has addressed Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture Kate Greenberg, stating their concerns.

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