Former FEMA director Joe Allbaugh, who took the reins of Gov. Rick Perry’s 2012 presidential campaign just as it was going into a nosedive, has jumped into a potentially more stable and long-term endeavor: legal marijuana.
Allbaugh is an investor in and board director of Colorado-based CannLabs, which calls itself “a leader in cannabis innovation” and specializes in the testing of pot potency and quality.
The company already has a major presence in Colorado, recently expanded into Connecticut and is positioning itself to take advantage of what could be exponential growth in the legal weed business across the country.
Allbaugh is a conservative Republican who served as chief of staff to then-Gov. George W. Bush and then managed his 2000 presidential campaign. He heads up Allbaugh International Group, a consulting firm with offices in Washington, D.C., and Austin.
In a telephone interview, Allbaugh made it clear that he hasn’t suddenly shed his conservative values and become a pot-loving hippie.
“I don’t want anyone to get the idea that I’m endorsing recreational marijuana use at all,” he said.
But through his wife’s fight with cancer, he said, he has come to appreciate the therapeutic use and pain-relieving potential of medical marijuana. He said he believes CannLabs can play a vital role in ensuring the safety and quality of it as more and more states make it legal.
“I want to make sure what the public is getting is safe,” Allbaugh said. “I’m all about the public having confidence in the product they’re receiving."
According to June regulatory filings, Allbaugh owned 250,000 shares of the company's stock, which was trading in the range of $1.20 per share on the over-the-counter markets Monday.
Company CEO Mark Mirken called Allbaugh “a guiding light to us in understanding the legislative process and the nuances of it, and how to really navigate those rapids.”
Twenty-three states and the District of Columbia allow medical marijuana, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. In addition, Colorado and Washington allow adults to consume marijuana recreationally.
CannLabs Inc. is already a major player in Colorado with its deep ties to the first licensed laboratory there.
Only residents of the state can hold a license to operate a pot business, but CannLabs Inc. has a business partnership and shared management with CannLabs Colorado, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
CannLabs Inc. provides testing technology, expertise and administrative services to the Colorado lab, according to the filings.
In Connecticut, which doesn’t have the same residency requirements as Colorado, Cann Labs Inc. is building its own testing laboratory there, Mirken said. And as states draft their regulations and testing requirements, the company is evaluating future investments.
“We are definitely looking at opportunities in numerous other jurisdictions,” Mirken said. “I will tell you there seem to be a number of states where it would be opportunistic for us to open a lab.”