Maryland

About 46% of Gov. Wes Moore's Blind Trust in Cannabis Stock

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore's administration announced Monday he has formally created a blind trust for his assets, which include nearly $1.2 million in shares of stock in a cannabis company — or about 46% of his assets outlined in the trust.

Moore, a Democrat who worked as an investment banker, declared before he was elected that he would create the blind trust swiftly and transparently to avoid potential conflicts of interest while in office. The trust legally removes him from controlling the assets while he is governor.

“This will ensure the governor is removed from even the appearance of potential conflicts of interest that could arise as a result of his duties as governor and further demonstrates his commitment to serving the people of Maryland to the best of his ability ethically, transparently, and effectively,” said Carter Elliott, a spokesperson for Moore.

The State Ethics Commission approved the transfer of Moore's list of holdings into a blind trust managed by Brown Investment Advisory & Trust Company last week, Carter said.

Brown Advisory is an independent investment management and strategic advisory firm that has offices across the U.S., as well as in Europe and Asia.

The governor's $1.17 million worth of stock in Green Thumb Industries, which does business in Maryland, is by far the most eye-catching in the portfolio. Moore had served on the company's board of directors from 2018 until his March 2022 resignation from the board.

The total assets in the portfolio add up to about $2.5 million. Administration officials announced the trust agreement less than five months after Moore took office.

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The trust is required to be diversified, which means a significant portion of his Green Thumb holdings likely will need to be sold.

For example, the trust states that “securities may not be purchased that would result in the holdings in any entity exceeding twenty percent (20%) of the total Trust assets, or any industry or economic sector exceeding thirty percent (30%) of the total Trust assets, except when the particular holdings present no conflict of interest.”

Earlier this year, Moore recused himself from voting on a state contract before the Board of Public Works involving Under Armour, of which he owns about $203,400 in stock noted in the trust. That's about 8% of the assets, the second-highest amount in the portfolio. Moore served on the apparel maker's board of directors from 2020 to 2022.

The trust does not include real estate assets.

The trust will have the authority to “sell, exchange, or otherwise dispose of the property in such manner and upon such terms as the Trustee in its sole discretion shall deem appropriate,” according to documents made public by the administration Monday.

Moore is scheduled to sign legislation this week that creates licensing regulations and tax rates needed to open a recreational marijuana market on July 1, after voters approved a constitutional amendment in November with 67% of the vote.

Medical cannabis stores will be able to get a dual license to sell recreational marijuana, and there will be additional licenses made available with an emphasis on equity concerns. The tax rate will be 9%.

The blind trust entered into by Moore is more stringent than steps taken by former Gov. Larry Hogan, his predecessor. The Republican declined to enter into a blind trust with his real estate business. Hogan received updates from trustees who managed his assets while his brother ran the business.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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