Senator Patricia Van Pelt, a Chicago Democrat, has been removed as a co-sponsor of the bill to legalize recreational cannabis after a report revealed she was selling tickets to her get-rich-quick seminars where she offered investment tips on hot cannabis stocks.
Van Pelt is also listed as the President and co-founder of Wakanna, a company that currently sells essential oils but that has plans to sell cannabis products once the product is legal in Illinois. Van Pelt’s company is selling ownership stake to investors and offering them assurances that their license will be approved, although that licensing process has not yet been established, let alone completed.
Lawmakers addressed Van Pelt’s scheme during a debate in the Senate Executive Committee on Wednesday.
Senator Dale Righter, a Mattoon Republican, asked, “Is there anything in the bill that would give the public security that okay we don’t have insiders maneuvering this and that’s who’s winding up with the licenses?”
“I think you know that I’m committed to ethical safeguards as much as anyone here in the room,” Senator Heather Steans, a Chicago Democrat and lead sponsor of the plan to legalize cannabis answered. “To the extent that we don’t have this in here right now in the way we should, I very much look forward to working with you on the best ways of accomplishing that.” […]
“The public is watching us,” [Senator Righter] said. “The public has to have confidence in the people here, in the process here. When you see one of the members of the chamber clearly looking to cash in on a policy that she believes is going to happen, and then she is an insider in that policy, that is completely inappropriate.” […]
[Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Lightford] also cautioned against Van Pelt’s decision to sell tickets for admission to private events where she offers investment advice about an industry where lawmakers are sifting through sensitive, private information.
“I don’t think that’s a wise decision,” Lightford said, distancing herself from Van Pelt. “I don’t know that I support any of that, and I will look forward to having a conversation with her and learning about what it is that’s going on because I really don’t know. So I don’t have an opinion personally about her, I just think none of us should be engaged with any type of conversations such as that. We are here as lawmakers to pass the best law that we can that can have the best impact on our community, on our budget, and everything moving forward.
“We’re just trying to do our jobs. If there is a bad apple in the bunch, then that would be addressed.”