US (FL): Secret recording reveals Burnette bragging that he and a state rep “tweaked” criteria to stifle medical cannabis competition

During a secretly recorded 2016 conversation between J.T. Burnette — a Tallahassee businessman on trial for racketeering, extortion, fraud and making false statements — and undercover FBI agents, Burnette bragged about working with former state Representative Halsey Beshears (R-Monticello) to give an advantage to Burnette’s then-girlfriend and Beshears’ brother in their application to obtain one of the five licenses to grow and sell medical cannabis in Florida.

The conversation was played for jurors in the federal courtroom Tuesday during Burnette’s cross-examination by federal prosecutors. Burnette testified he and Beshears were good friends, having grown up together in Monticello.

Beshears’ brother, Thad, is a founding member Trulieve, a medical cannabis company owned by Burnette’s then girlfriend, now wife, Kim Rivers. According to Forbes, Trulieve now operates across 11 states and is one of the largest companies in the U.S. cannabis market. Rivers is Trulieve’s Chairman, President and CEO.

Thad Beshears is currently on Trulieve’s board of directors and is the Co-Owner/President of Simpson Nurseries of Florida and Co-Owner/President of Simpson Nurseries of Tennessee, according to the Trulieve website. On the recording, Burnette describes how he worked with then-State Rep. Halsey Beshears in 2014 to put “little tweaks” into the criteria for those applying for a medical cannabis license into Florida’s medical cannabis bill at the last minute, making it impossible for certain competitors to qualify for a license.


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