An Illinois state senator is the subject of an investigation by state officials who are probing her role in a cannabis company she operates. The investigation into Sen. Patricia Van Pelt by the office of Secretary of State Jesse White was reported by television station WGN on Wednesday afternoon. Van Pelt, a Democrat, represents a district in Chicago’s South Side.
The investigation, which is being conducted by the securities division of the Secretary of State’s office, has apparently been going on for at least four months. Van Pelt said that she may also be the subject of an investigation by the legislative inspector general. It is not yet known how long either investigation will take.
Van Pelt hosts seminars where she promotes the economic opportunities in the regulated cannabis market and offers advice on investing in the industry. She also operates a business that sells CBD products through online sales and direct marketing.
“My enterprise is networking and home-based parties. We do home-based parties,” Van Pelt said.
“We’re not trying to just sell CBD oil,” she said in an audio recording. “That’s our entry point.
Making Marijuana Millionaires?
In online videos promoting her cannabis investment seminars, dubbed WaKanna University, Van Pelt said that she could help people become “marijuana millionaires.” But a disclaimer on the company’s website says that less than 4% of people who complete the program earn enough in sales commissions to cover the cost to attend.
“We have people that raise all the way from $0.60 cents to $13,000 in a month,” Van Pelt said.
In a recording of a telephone sales pitch obtained last week by WCIA in Springfield, Van Pelt says that prominent politicians in the state have been involved in the investment advice seminars.
“I signed up senators and the Secretary of State and the Cook County Clerk of the Circuit Court,” Van Pelt says in the recording.
But both White and Cook County Court Clerk Dorothy Brown have said that they have no involvement in Van Pelt’s cannabis ventures. However, they acknowledge purchasing products for a failed pyramid scheme known as 5linx. The owners of 5linx have been convicted of fraud and money laundering charges and sent to prison.
Not the First Time
This isn’t the first time that Van Pelt’s connection to the cannabis industry has raised the attention of the Secretary of State’s office. While the Illinois law that eventually legalized the recreational use of marijuana was being drafted by lawmakers earlier this year, Van Pelt was removed as a co-sponsor of the bill and later declined to vote on it, citing a conflict.
“I had no role in drafting the language of the bill, have not been involved in any negotiations and will not be part of the rule-making process,” Van Pelt said in a statement.
Under state law, Illinois lawmakers will be prohibited from owning stock in marijuana companies beginning January 1. Van Pelt has said that she will comply with the law but doesn’t understand the rationale behind it.
“I don’t see a reason why anybody, any lawmaker, should not be allowed to invest in any industry, actually,” Van Pelt said.