Lev Parnas, Who Encouraged Trump to Legalize Marijuana, Sentenced for Campaign Finance Crimes

Lev Parnas with his attorney Joseph Bondy outside federal court in New York on October 21, 2021. (AP photo)

In a 2018 recording released by his attorney Joseph Bondy, Russian-born businessman 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 didn't know Parnas.

In October 2020, 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. A U.S. citizen, Parnas was born in Ukraine in 1972.

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

Update: Convicted on October 22, 2021 for fraud and campaign finance crimes in New York federal court, Parnas received a 20-month sentence on June 29, 2022.

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.

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."

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."

While Parnas had Trump's ear, he also had a vested interest in legalizing pot, as the indictment, conviction and sentencing proves. 


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

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