Inside the Cannabis Scandal Sparked by a Giuliani Associate

Another scandal for Andrey Kukushkin

An associate of Rudy Giuliani's is at the center of a scandal involving Russian investigators, the VA and cannabis research.
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If you’ve seen Andrey Kukushkin’s name in the news over the last few months, you’ve likely seen it in connection with that of former New York City Mayor (and current Donald Trump attorney) Rudy Giuliani. This included questions of whether Kukushkin violated campaign finance laws.

But that’s not the only scandal in which Kukushkin is currently embroiled. At the Observer, Chris Roberts has the story of another way in which Kukushkin has ventured into ethically perilous territory — and in this case, it involves cannabis research.

Roberts explores how Kukushkin began working with Dr. Rajvir Dahiya — a professor at the University of California, San Francisco, as well as a researcher at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The two founded a company which engaged in some ethically questionable practices:

As recently as late September, weeks before Kukushkin’s indictment on federal charges, a company in which Dahiya and Kukushkin were partners, Oasis Venture LLC, was in negotiations to steer a $650,000-a-year cannabis study to one of Dahiya’s colleagues in the urology department at a San Francisco VA hospital, records and interviews show.

The study was rejected, and Dr. Dahiya is now under investigation from his university for, as Roberts phrases it, “violating university policies governing outside businesses.”

Even more concerning are questions over funding, and whether money from Eastern Europe and Russia was being used in unethical ways. An article from late 2019 in The New York Times offers some useful context. “Federal law still treats cannabis as an illegal substance, and traditional banks have been wary of getting involved,” wrote Mike Baker and William K. Rashbaum. “Wealthy financiers have moved in to fill the void — including a growing cast of investors from Russia and former Soviet Union countries who have helped shape the industry’s growth.”

In the Observer article, Roberts speculates that, had the study been approved, it would have increased the value of Dahiya and Kukushkin’s company — and might have led to more lucrative opportunities. It’s a complex web of foreign investments, scientific research and governmental policy — and it’s another chapter in a larger, more disquieting, saga.

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