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Pot M&A’s Mystery Antitrust Reviews Are Linked to Barr Crackdown

June 25, 2020, 8:00 AM

Something strange was going on in the cannabis business last fall. Pot company mergers were getting snarled in antitrust reviews even though the market, which is highly fragmented, raised no red flags with the competition police.

According to a whistle-blower, the delays weren’t the result of antitrust watchdogs trying to understand a relatively new industry, as marijuana executives and analysts had thought.

Instead, Attorney General William Barr had ordered special scrutiny of the deals because he doesn’t like cannabis companies, the whistle-blower said, resulting in the Justice Department holding up 10 merger deals and skewing the marketplace.

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