George Papadopoulos — the first person sent to prison in the ongoing Russia probe — is cashing in on his connections to President Donald Trump, announcing this week that he was tapped as an adviser to a pot startup led by a staunch Trump supporter.
In 2017, Papadopoulos pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators about conversations he had with Russian intermediaries as an advisor to Trump’s presidential campaign. Last month, he was released from a federal prison in Wisconsin after serving a 12-day sentence.
In a tweet Tuesday, the former Chicago resident and DePaul University graduate announced that he joined the board of advisors of C3 International, the makers of a prescription pot pill called Idrasil. The California-based company describes Idrasil as “the first standardized form of medical cannabis” and touts the pill as a safer alternative to highly-addictive opioid painkillers.
“The opioid crisis has wreaked havoc in America,” Papadopoulos told the Chicago Sun-Times in an email. “Thousands are dangerously dependent on them, and hundreds die from them daily in America. This is not a left or right problem, it’s an American problem and a human one.”
Papadopoulos said Idrasil “can be a big part of the solution” and predicted that the non-addictive pill “will disrupt the pharma industry.”
Cannabis attorney Aaron Pelley said Papadopoulos’ conviction doesn’t prevent him from working in California’s legal pot industry, even as he remains on supervised release.
C3 International CEO Steele Smith told the Sun-Times that he wasn’t put off by his colleague’s recent prison stint. Smith called Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s treatment of Papadopoulos “highly unfair.”
Like Papadopoulos, Smith is a vocal Trump supporter who spent time in a federal lockup.
In 2007, Smith was charged with illegally cultivating cannabis and conspiring to grow the drug after DEA agents raided his medical pot shop in southern California. He spent 10 months in a detention center and another year on court-ordered monitoring before his case was dismissed in 2012.
Smith said he used his time behind bars to devise the business plan for his pot-based opioid replacement. He said it was inspired by his own addiction, which he developed after being prescribed opioids to treat a rare form of Crohn’s disease.
“It nearly killed me,” Smith said. “I have a very deep appreciation and understanding of the devastating nature of opioid addiction and the difficult process of detox.”
Smith is now using Papadopoulos to gain access to the Trump administration, and he said he hopes the connection will help him secure an appointment to the president’s opioid commission. Papadopoulos confirmed that he was reaching out to the Trump administration and members of Congress to discuss the opioid crisis “and how C3 can ameliorate it in the future.”
Trump has publicly downplayed his ties to Papadopoulos.