Email Blasting 'Marijuana Monopoly' Was a Fake, Former House Speaker Says

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Hemp plants being grown at BeLeaf, one of the two licensed growers in Missouri. - PHOTO BY SARA BANNOURA
Hemp plants being grown at BeLeaf, one of the two licensed growers in Missouri.

Steve Tilley, the former Missouri House speaker, said Monday night he has no idea why anyone would send out an email attributed to his authorship blasting several people working to legalize marijuana in Missouri.

“We are looking at every legal option that we have,” Tilley told the RFT on Monday night.

The email, which bore the subject line “Millionaires Hell-Bent on Missouri Marijuana Monopoly,” purported to be a press release from Tilley, claiming that the state's "nascent pot industry is being rigged against average patients and clients." It was sent Monday morning to many of Tilley's former colleagues in the Missouri House of Representatives, as well as the Riverfront Times.

But the email is bogus, Tilley says. He said he would be turning it over to his attorney, as well as the authorities.

Tilley, 46, has operated his own lobbying firm since about a year after resigning as House speaker in 2012.

The emailed story purportedly authored by Tilley claims that attorney and physician Brad Bradshaw and brewery heir Adolphus Busch IV are running campaigns “to buy complete control over Missouri's medical marijuana industry."

Bradshaw recently announced on the website for his initiative, called the Bradshaw Amendment, that more than 100,000 signatures had been collected for a measure he hopes to place on the November 2018 ballot.

If approved, it would “create a world class medical research center in Missouri to find cures for cancer and other incurable diseases, funded through seed money with private-public joint ventures, medical marijuana revenue, and matching government and private dollars,” according to the website.

Bradshaw’s campaign is separate from the one being waged by New Approach Missouri, which is also collecting petition signatures for an initiative to legalize medical cannabis. New Approach’s supporters, which include Busch, hope to place their measure on the 2018 ballot. (They came close, but fell short, in 2016.)

Tilley acknowledged he is working with a third group seeking to use the ballot initiative process to legalize medical cannabis, but he declined to offer details.

One of the people who received a copy of the bogus email was St. Louis businesswoman Mitch Meyers, the CEO of BeLeaf, Inc., of Earth City. BeLeaf holds one of the two licenses issued in the state for the cultivation of medical cannabis.

Meyers said she knew there was something odd about the email when it stated that Busch sits on the BeLeaf board.

That’s wrong, and Meyers got the entity that issued the bogus email, known as House of Tilley, to issue a correction. That correction then went out to everyone who'd received the original email — along with Meyers' angry reply to the original sender.

Meyers said she is still trying to determine the source of the bogus email.

“We have traced it to an IP address in Toronto,” Meyers said. “Tilley called me this morning and said, ‘I did not put that out.’”

Earlier on Monday, Meyers said she called a phone number attached to the bogus email, spoke briefly to a male voice on the other end and asked for a retraction.

“I said, ‘Retract it immediately.’ And he ends up calling me a yahoo,” Meyers said. “So the whole thing is a scam and we’re trying to figure out who did it.”

An RFT writer called the same phone number that was attached to the bogus email.

When asked to explain the email, a muffled male voice replied cryptically, “You nailed his truth. Buh-bye.” Then he hung up the phone.

Tilley, 46, is an optometrist from Perryville, about 80 miles south of St. Louis. He was elected speaker in January 2011, after Republicans picked up 17 House seats in the November 2010 election. The Perryville lawmaker resigned from the speakership in August 2012 —- five months before his term was set to end —- to work as a political consultant for candidates he supported, according to statements he made to news media outlets at the time.

A year later Tilley launched Strategic Capitol Consulting, a lobbying firm based in Perryville.

Mike Fitzgerald can be reached at [email protected]
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