Lev Parnas Encouraged Trump to Legalize Marijuana

Parnas on Pot: "It’s something that’s the future no matter how you look at it. I think that it’s something that’s already so far out that you’re not going to stop it. I think you need to be ahead of it. And I think you need to control it."

In a 2018 recording released by his attorney Joseph Bondy, Lev Parnas had a revealing five-minute conversation with President Trump about legalizing marijuana. 

The conversation took place at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC. Several other people were in the room with Trump and Parnas at the time. This all happened despite Trump repeatedly saying he doesn't know Parnas.

In October, Parnas and three other associates of Rudy Giuliani were indicted on federal charges of operating a pro-Trump Super PAC and conspiring to have the former amabassador to the Ukraine fired. Parnas is a U.S. citizen who was born in Russia.

The second part of the indictment focuses on how he and his partners sought to illegallt obtain cannabis licenses n Nevada.

Here's how the Parnas-Trump conversation went (cue to the 45 minute mark in the video above):

Parnas: Mr. President, have you thought about banking in some of these states that allow cannabis?

Trump: Cannabis. You're talking about marijuana, right? Why, you can't do banking there?

Parnas: That's the biggest problem since none of the banks allow...

Trump: It's all working out. I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

Parnas: The reason why I'm saying this... I think it's a tremendous, tremendous movement with a lot of the young...

Trump: You think it's a good thing?

Parnas: I do. I think there's a combination. It's something that's the future no matter how you look at it. I think that it's something that's already so far out that you're not going to stop it. I think you need to be ahead of it. And I think you need to control it.

Trump: "In Colorado, they have more accidents. It does cause an IQ problem."

Parnas: Take a look at your opiate crisis and the veterans.

Trump: But it's actually good for opioids.

Unidentified person: I'll says this: between that and alcohol, as far as I'm concerned alcohol does more damange.

Parnas: Much more damage.

Unidentified person: You don't see people beating their wives...

Parnas: What I want to recommend to you is to set up a committee, a bipartisan committee, no politicans, just meeting people in the industry, so you can know what's going on and make the right decision. By just putting the committee together I think it will give you such a boost in the midterms election with a lot of the millenials... There's some statistics and information that I think is extremely important for you to look at. We're not talking about you going one way or the other. I think the most important thing is for you to be ahead of the game. You've got 30 states that have already legalized it, you've got over 90% of the population involved in it. I'm not involved in it that business, but I have a lot of friends that are. I'm in the energy industry. But I've been watching it evolve over the years. I live in Florida. I've seen what it's done in Florida... It's a subject that's very controversial. As long as you have a committee that can give you the right direction, I think that you could be ahead of the game and make the right decision which way to go. I'll leave some stuff behind."

Note that it's two years and nothing has changed. No committee, no move towards ending federal marijuana prohibition. Yes, Parnas had Trump's ear, but he accomplished little in this area. The fact is Parnas did have a vested interest in legalizing pot, as the indictment shows. 

Regarding marijuana's effect on IQ, a 2013 New Zealand study reported a decline in IQ  among teenaged users, but added that socioeconomic factors should also be considered. A year later, a study at University College of London concluded that "even heavy marijuana use wasn't associated with IQ" and said alcohol use, not marijuana, "was found to be strongly associated with IQ decline."

As far a automobile accidents under the influence of marijuana in Colorado, NIDA has said that “the role played by marijuana in [traffic] accidents is often unclear, because it can remain detectable in body fluids for days or even weeks after intoxication and because users frequently combine it with alcohol.”

And lastly, Trump's comment that marijuana is "actually good for opioids" is misinformed. It's good for pain and a variety of medical conditions and, as Parnas said, was legal in "30 states" in 2018. Now, it's up to 33. 

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.