A perfect storm of green for Gary Johnson

Politicians are supposed to fight for the values of their constituents. They follow those values to win elections and stay in office. However, it’s their actions after they leave office that often shed light on their true interests.

In the case of Gary Johnson, former two-term Governor of New Mexico and the 2012 Libertarian Party candidate for president, the public is now finding out how serious he was (and is) about cannabis legalization.

On June 30, Cannabis Sativa, Inc., a Nevada-based medical cannabis company with national plans, named Johnson as President and CEO. The ripple through both the cannabis world and mainstream media resulted not only in increased coverage, but also a marked increase in the company’s value per share.

If you want to jump feet first into the cannabis market, this is the way to do it.
The company and Mr. Johnson have both highlighted that his salary will only be $1; pointing out as an aside that he has an equity stake in the company. That equity stake came in the form of 509,558 shares of stock in the publicly traded Cannabis Sativa, Inc. When the company issued the stock, it was worth roughly $2 million, or $4 per share, and a 3.4% ownership of the company.

Why count on Johnson to grow the company and his interest in the process? He has a good record of accomplishment.

“I did start a one-man handyman business in Albuquerque in 1974 and I actually grew that business to over a thousand employees.” Johnson said in a phone interview, indicating his business acumen that has served him well in life.

Johnson says marijuana was a part of growing up for him, “as it was tens of millions of people,” This in response to a question about what first got him involved with cannabis. “I just found it to be such a better alternative than alcohol.”

The former governor started using cannabis at age 17 by his own account. In high school, he was a competitive athlete and says he really didn’t experience any negative side effects from his cannabis use. Johnson even boasts that he’s still a competitive athlete at age 61 and though he prefers not to smoke flower, he continues to use cannabis products.

Johnson admittedly sees his involvement in the cannabis industry as taking advantage of the opportunity available from the spread of cannabis legalization and acceptance in America. “An opportunity that’s changed the world for the better; medically and recreationally both.” He’s not the only well-known figure to join Cannabis Sativa on June 30.

At the same time, renowned cannabis activist, Steven Kubby, sold his development company. Kush, as Kubby’s company is known, is now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the larger Cannabis Sativa. With the buy-out came the stockholders of Kush, including Kubby and Johnson as Directors. Johnson signed on with Kubby and Kush in February 2014.

The merger deal resulted in David Tobias, 62, stepping down as President and CEO of the new company to make way for Johnson. David’s brother Barry Tobias, 72, was a Director of the old company and remains a Director of the new one. According to SEC filings, the Tobias brothers maintain a combined 43.1% interest in Cannabis Sativa, Inc. As of July 28, the market valued the company’s stock at $8.10 per share.

It’s unclear whether we can attribute the stock’s meteoric rise to its future prospects, but for now, at least, the market seems to approve of the Kush acquisition and the new Chairman and CEO of Cannabis Sativa. However, the framework of Kush and two new leaders were not the only assets purchased by the company.

Also at stake were intellectual property rights to Kubby’s propriety cannabis strain, known as “NZT”, which he claims to be much more potent and medically beneficial than other strains. With the strain came Kubby’s method of extracting necessary cannabinoids from the plant to create a lozenge delivery system and methods for concentration into a topical ointment.

After the announcement, shares of Cannabis Sativa began a quick gain of 6.14 points to a high of $10.14 per share on July 9. With the now $8.10 per share, Johnson has doubled his investment in under a month. Of course, the deal has been in the works since before Johnson signed onto Kush as a Director: Cannabis Sativa announce their planned joint venture with Kubby’s Kush at the beginning of the year, with an option to purchase the company outright.

It’s difficult to tell if the price jump is related to the closing of the deal or Johnson’s high-profile confidence in its success.

“You mix the CBD lozenge with THC and all of a sudden, man, you’ve got direct competition to all of the prescription painkillers,” Johnson says. He then points out the epidemic of opiate and prescription drug abuse that racks up a large body count nationwide each year–while cannabis has never has a reported death as a direct result.

On July 15, Johnson added to his resume when he became an Advisory Board Member for Medical Cannabis Payment Solutions, a company focused on providing dispensaries and other related cannabis industry sellers with methods to normalize the sale of cannabis. While compensation was not an issue, normalizing sales to conform to national standards will certainly help Cannabis Sativa and all of its owners.

We asked Johnson about other issues that marijuana faces, which might hinder the plant’s growth in America.

“The issues, I think, start with impairment.” Johnson told us. “The levels of impairment that have been established under marijuana are absolutely in no way, shape or form impairment. There’s simply a test to determine presence in your blood stream, so that’s a big issue that needs to get addressed.”

With wise words like that in an America that believes in marijuana, could Johnson be planning to exit the company and enter the 2016 U.S. presidential race?

It’s not so farfetched: Johnson’s employment contract with Cannabis Sativa states that he will serve in his current position, barring unforeseen circumstances, until May 31, 2015, after which time the company has the option to extend his contract on a yearly basis.

However, citing the major life changes that occur when you officially become a candidate, Johnson could not confirm that he’ll run for office again. But if he does decide to run–in 2016 or 2020–you’d imagine that he’d have the cannabis contingency on his side.

And the future of legalization as Johnson sees it?

“I really firmly believe that in 10 years most of the states will legalize pot.” Johnson concludes.

Step aside, ganjapreneurs. Welcome to the world of high-profile cannabis capitalism.

This article was originally published by Marijuana.com.

Published by P. Aiden Hunt

Aiden Hunt is a creative writer and freelance journalist covering marijuana policy and other related issues. He has been published in print and online by outlets such as The Denver Post (The Cannabist), Marijuana.com, The Hemp Connoisseur Magazine and Cronic Magazine. He is currently focused on literary creative nonfiction.

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