PA: Pro Pot In Run For Governor, Now John Hanger Eyes Getting Into Marijuana Business


He has policed the state’s environment, overseen its utilities and campaigned to be its governor. Now former Wolf administration official John Hanger is looking to get into Pennsylvania’s budding medical marijuana business.

“If I can find the right business partner, it would give me a lot of pleasure to provide high quality medical marijuana to patients who need it,” Hanger said in an interview. “I have been passionate about this for a long time.”

Hanger said he has no signed deal to fund, launch or operate a marijuana business. But he was serious enough about the prospect in June to ask his lawyer to consult the state Ethics Commission on whether he’d be permitted to get involved, given his former post with Gov. Tom Wolf.

The state’s medical marijuana law, passed in June, prohibits an “executive level public employee, public official or party officer” from engaging in the business for at least a year after leaving his or her state job.

But the Ethics Commission ruled July 27 that Hanger is exempt from the ban because the law was signed in June, after he left, and is not retroactive. Hanger resigned as Wolf’s secretary of policy and planning on Feb. 26, saying he wanted to spend more time with his wife and daughter.

“Mr. Hanger is considering investment and employment opportunities with a start-up company that would be formed to participate in the medical marijuana business,” the Commission wrote in its opinion, adding that Hanger’s attorney informed it he would be an investor and employee, providing funding and being employed as CEO and general counsel.”

Hanger, of Hummelstown, outside Harrisburg, also was “considering an alternative arrangement where he would provide professional consultant services” to the company as an independent contractor, the commission wrote in its opinion.

The former Department of Environmental Protection secretary would not say Thursday who in the industry he’s talking with, but said some discussions have been serious.

“I have been approached by some individuals and businesses asking me if I would get involved in the commercial side of the issue and before I pursued any of those conversations, because I am very careful about that, I chose to ask the Ethics Commission,” Hanger said. “At this point, I may engage but I have not finalized plans.”

Hanger said ideally he’d want to be part of a company that applied for and won both a grower-processor license and a dispensary license.

The state’s medical marijuana law calls for the issuance of 25 grower-processor permits and 50 dispensary permits, each allowing up to three locations. But only five entities can receive both types of permits.

If he does get involved with a medical marijuana company, Hanger may want to be careful about getting directly involved in trying to secure a permit, said Barry Kauffman, senior adviser to the good government group Common Cause Pennsylvania.

Separate from the law that legalized medical marijuana, the state’s ethics law prohibits state employees from lobbying the entity for which they worked for a year after leaving the state payroll, he said.

Broadly interpreted, Hanger’s work as policy director for the governor “has applications and implications for every single agency in the executive branch,” Kauffman said. But he acknowledged the possibility of a narrower interpretation: Hanger being prohibited only from lobbying the policy office.

The ban is an important check on former government officials returning to lobby their former colleagues. Kauffman would prefer a two-year prohibition. “You need that cooling off period to make sure decisions are made by government officials based on what is right for the citizens,” he said, “rather than what is right for a friend.”

It’s not the first time Hanger’s name has been associated with marijuana.

In July 2103, during his failed bid for the Democrats’ nomination for governor, Hanger proposed legalizing medical marijuana, ending criminal penalties for possession of small amounts of marijuana and eventually fully legalizing and taxing the drug.

“It’s probably the only thing people remember about our campaign,” Hanger joked.

Hanger said he was not involved with drafting the state’s medical marijuana law, but did give political advice to advocates of legalization.

“I monitored it but I actually didn’t engage in the legislation personally,” Hanger said. “I provided some tactical advice to the medical marijuana supporters.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Health has released its first draft of regulations to govern growers and processors and is soliciting comments. It outlines permit application procedures as well as detailed operational requirements to be placed on the growers and processors.

A final version of the regulations is expected to be issued this fall, and permit applications are expected to be available as early as late this year.

News Moderator: Katelyn Baker
Full Article: Pro Pot In Run For Governor, Now John Hanger Eyes Getting Into Marijuana Business
Author: Scott Kraus
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