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Liberal CFO a pot multimillionaire



Chuck Rifici co-founded Tweed Marijuana Inc. and served as its CEO until he resigned on Aug. 27. (Jean-Francois Cloutier/QMI Agency)
Chuck Rifici co-founded Tweed Marijuana Inc. and served as its CEO until he resigned on Aug. 27. (Jean-Francois Cloutier/QMI Agency)

MONTREAL — Liberal Party of Canada CFO Chuck Rifici has become a multimillionaire in just a few months thanks to his stock-traded medical marijuana company, QMI Agency has learned.

Documents show Rifici’s initial investment in Tweed Marijuana Inc. has so far sprouted into an $18-million bumper crop.

Rifici co-founded Tweed and served as its CEO until he resigned on Aug. 27. He remains on the company’s board.

According to financial statements, Rifici’s fortune exploded after Tweed’s initial public offering in April 2014, when it became one of the first to sell legal marijuana under a new Health Canada licensing system.

Rifici obtained some of his shares directly and other shares were purchased at 89 cents each. Tweed shares are now worth $2.36 and the company’s value is $ 95 million, according to Bloomberg. This sets the value of Rifici’s shares at $ 21 million.

Tweed’s net worth has fluctuated between $20 million and $100 million since the IPO. With Rifici owning a 22.1% stake in the company, his shares were worth between $4.4 million and $22.1 million, according to financial documents.

Rifici, a Franco-Ontarian, is a staunch supporter of Justin Trudeau, who has advocated that marijuana be legalized.

“I like his ideas, I’m not hiding that,” Rifici told QMI earlier this summer at Tweed’s factory in Smiths Falls, Ont.

Health Canada says the number of Canadians using medicinal marijuana is expected to rise tenfold over the next decade, to 450,000 people. The market could be worth $1.3 billion by 2024, the department says.

“We’ll have to meet this demand,” said Rifici.

His is one of just 13 companies with licences to legally sell pot.

Tweed grows its pot in the town’s old Hershey chocolate factory. A police station is right across the street.

Although the marijuana is officially used for therapeutic purposes, marketing is very prominent in Tweed’s sales pitch.

The Tweed logo is front and centre on the company’s website, which also features branded pot products with names such as Weaver, Bogart and High Lands.

In an Aug. 27 news release announcing his resignation as Tweed’s CEO, Rifici said he was stepping down “to help the company recruit a CEO with the skills and experience to take Tweed to the next level of expected high-volume and rapid growth in this aggressive market segment.”

Rifici and the Liberal Party were not available for comment as of press time.

Medical pot smoke and mirrors, say doctors

Despite a very lucrative business and a very aggressive marketing, the Canadian Medical Association said in a 2011 position paper that it has “concerns about the lack of evidence on the risks and benefits associated with the use of marijuana.”

Quebec’s College of Physicians went even further in a directive to its members in April, saying “the use of dried cannabis for medical purposes is not a recognized treatment.”

The Quebec professional order recommends its members exercise extreme caution before prescribing the drug.

Health Canada says it allowed companies to legally produce marijuana because the old system, where patients grew their own pot, had spiralled out of control. There were reports of infiltration by organized crime as well as sick people selling pot to healthy buyers.

In 2013, the last full year under the old system, licensed patients were consuming 17.7 grams of pot per day even though it’s believed they only needed between one and three grams daily.

“The courts forced us to accept the use of medical marijuana,” said Health Canada spokesman Sean Upton.

He points out that according to current research, marijuana is “bad for health” and that its use should not be encouraged.

Watchdogs’ joint warning about ‘green gold’ rush

In June, Canada’s securities regulators urged investors to be careful about pouring their money into medical marijuana stocks.

“Just the announcement of intent to develop a medical marijuana business has resulted in an immediate rise in a company’s stock price,” said the statement by the Canadian Securities Administrators (CSA). “The CSA is concerned investors may face financial harm by purchasing such shares at an inflated price before there is a viable business.”

History of medical marijuana in Canada:

  • 1999: Health Canada allows individuals to possess marijuana or grow it in limited quantities for medical purposes.
  • 2001: An Ontario judge rules the ban on marijuana possession is unconstitutional unless it includes an exemption for medical marijuana. Health Canada introduces a regulatory framework.
  • 2002-2013: The number of licensed medical marijuana smokers rises from 477 to 29,888.
  • 2014: Health Canada introduces new system that restricts medical marijuana sales and production to commercial, licensed producers.

Article source Toronto Sun

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