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Reneging on Campaign Pledge, California’s Elected Insurance Commissioner Accepts Insurance Contributions; Watchdog & Reform Author Calls on Ricardo Lara to Return Money



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Reversing a three decade tradition among elected Democrat California Insurance Commissioners – and reneging on his own campaign pledge – Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has accepted contributions from an insurance company executive and spouses of executives tied to a company with business before the Commissioner.

The author of the voter-approved law that made the insurance commissioner an elected post and the group he founded, Consumer Watchdog, called on Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara to return the campaign contributions and commit to rejecting insurance industry money in the future.

Read the San Diego Union-Tribune news story:

“Proposition 103 made the office of insurance commissioner an elected position in order to make the commissioner accountable to the voters who pay insurance premiums, not to the insurance companies the commissioner regulates. Honoring the voters’ trust, all but one of the previous elected insurance commissioners have refused to accept campaign contributions from the insurance industry,” wrote insurance reform Proposition 103 author and Consumer Watchdog founder Harvey Rosenfield, and Consumer Watchdog executive director Carmen Balber, in a letter to Lara today. “Taking that money is a violation of the pledge you made to voters to not accept campaign contributions from the insurance industry.”

Download the letter:

The only elected California insurance commissioner to accept insurance industry contributions was Republican Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush, who resigned in 2000 over an industry pay-to-play investigation. Quackenbush was embroiled in a year-long scandal and faced prosecution for soliciting contributions from insurance companies who were under scrutiny by the Department of Insurance after the Northridge earthquake.

An insurance executive and two spouses of insurance executives, all with ties to workers’ compensation insurer Applied Underwriters, made $46,500 in contributions to Commissioner Lara’s 2022 reelection fund in April. One month later the Berkshire Hathaway-owned Applied Underwriters submitted a request to Commissioner Lara seeking his approval of a pending acquisition. A third person married to an insurance executive gave Lara an additional $7,800.

Applied Underwriters has a history of questionable practices across the country. Its California subsidiary, California Insurance Company, settled an action brought by the Department of Insurance in 2017 after its sales of its workers compensation insurance policies were halted for bait and switch marketing. It is currently fighting legal actions brought by five other businesses it insured alleging the same unlawful practices. Past misconduct is typically part of a Department of Insurance review of a proposed acquisition.

The insurance industry contributions totaling $54,300 include:

  • $15,500 from Stephen Acunto, managing director of the Constitution Group, which wholly owns Constitution Insurance Company and whose directorate interlocks with Applied Underwriters and California Insurance Company. Acunto is also a spokesperson for Applied Underwriters.
  • $15,500 from Carole Acunto, identified in campaign reports as the president of a production company and the wife of Stephen Acunto.
  • $15,500 from Theresa DeBarbrie, identified in campaign reports as an administrator at a nursery school. She is the wife of Carl DeBarbrie, an insurance broker for Applied Underwriters and former executive with Constitution Insurance Company and California Insurance Company.
  • $7,800 from Darlene Graber, identified as a homemaker in campaign reports and the wife of Larry R. Graber, Senior Vice President and Director of Independence Holding Company which has multiple health insurance subsidiaries.

View the reports at the California Secretary of State campaign finance website:

Commissioner Lara also appears to have kept $6,000 in campaign contributions he accepted last spring from The Doctors Company, a medical malpractice insurance company, despite his promise during the campaign to return the funds and not accept industry money.

Lara denied taking insurance industry contributions in a debate that aired on KQED one month before the election, stating: “I haven’t taken for this race any insurance money and it’s unfair to say that I’ve taken insurance money. In my past campaigns I have, in this campaign I have not.”

Rosenfield and Balber wrote: “As Insurance Commissioner, you oversee insurance policies worth hundreds of billions in annual premiums paid by Californians. Such decisions should not be made under a cloud of improper industry influence. To preserve the integrity of your office, and to demonstrate your personal independence from the insurance industry, you must immediately return the contributions in question and commit to rejecting insurance industry money in future. To do otherwise would be a betrayal of the people of California.”

“The recent contributions to your 2022 reelection campaign fund appear intended to covertly grease the wheels for a legal matter currently pending before the Department of Insurance.”

“The company’s request for your approval also contains troubling statements that seem to be intended to solicit your personal favor. As the Insurance Commissioner of California, you chair the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Cannabis Insurance Working Group, and you have made wildfire and cannabis insurance priorities during your first months in office.   Applied Underwriters’ application promises that the workers compensation insurer “will expand its business operations to include Wildfire Home Insurance to California homeowners, Home Insurance to California homeowners in inner-city areas, and workers’ compensation to employers involved in the cannabis industry.”

“No insurance commissioner should take money from the industry he or she regulates. Applied Underwriters appears to think its executives and their families can buy your support. Disabuse it of that notion by returning the money immediately and pledging to reject any future insurance industry contributions. It is the only way to prove your independence from the industry you regulate and keep faith with the voters whose interests you have sworn to protect,” the letter concluded.


SOURCE Consumer Watchdog


Digipath CEO Todd Denkin Interviewed by CEO Roadshow



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Digipath, Inc. (OTCQB: DIGP) (“DIGP” or the “Company”), a service-oriented independent testing laboratory, data analytics and formulation firm focused on the developing cannabis and hemp markets, is pleased to announce that Company CEO Todd Denkin was recently interviewed by CEO Roadshow with veteran journalist Mike Elliott.

In this interview, Denkin discusses the Company’s recent provisional patent applications involving terpene technology. He also discusses Digipath’s newest business unit, GroSciences and the molecular assay it has developed to distinguish hemp from drug-type cannabis, and the status of the Company’s expansion into Colombia.

“It’s always a pleasure to sit down with Mr. Elliott, who is a true professional with a significant following,” stated Todd Denkin, CEO, Digipath Inc. “In this interview we covered some of the more exciting things happening for Digipath and its shareholders. “Please take a moment to listen to the interview at,” added Denkin.


SOURCE Digipath, Inc.



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Vireo Health Launches New York’s First Same-Day Marijuana Delivery Service



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Vireo Health of New York (“Vireo” or the “Company”), a subsidiary of Vireo Health International (CSE: VREO), a leading physician-led, science-focused multi-state cannabis company, today announced that patients living in the New York City metro area, Westchester County, and Nassau County now have access to free, same-day marijuana delivery.

Launched in April 2017, Vireo’s medical marijuana home delivery service has rapidly expanded. Since its inception, the Company has made more than 25,000 home deliveries to patients. With over 1,000 Google reviews with an average 4.9 out of 5 star rating, it is now the first company in New York to offer a free same-day delivery option.

“Our same-day home delivery service is designed to match the convenience that New Yorkers have become accustomed to in the era of Amazon, Uber and Seamless,” said Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Kyle Kingsley, M.D.  “The growing popularity of our home delivery service has allowed us to achieve the economies of scale necessary to offer same-day delivery throughout the Greater New York City area.”

Vireo’s home delivery service was designed by a team of security experts, pharmacists, and health-care providers. “As a physician-led company, our goal is to provide safe and effective products in a trusted and supportive environment, and nothing is safer than one’s own home. We want to ensure that all our patients do not feel stigmatized and can receive the highest quality service and products with the convenience they deserve,” said Stephen Dahmer, M.D., Chief Medical Officer of Vireo Health.

Patients who place orders by 12:00 p.m. EDT will be eligible to receive free same-day delivery. Payment for deliveries can be made using CanPay, a cannabis debit payment app available on iPhone and Android devices. More information is available online at


SOURCE Vireo Health International, Inc.

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Choom Announces Warrant Extension



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Vancouver-based cannabis brand Choom™ (CSE: CHOO; OTCQB: CHOOF) has amended the expiry date of 2,352,500 outstanding share purchase warrants that were issued pursuant to a private placement completed in February 2018 (the “2018 Warrants”). Each 2018 Warrant currently entitles the holder to purchase one common share (a “Common Share”) in the capital of the Company at a price of $0.75 per Common Share at any time prior to 5:00 p.m. (Vancouver Time) on August 6, 2019 (the “2018 Warrant Expiry Date”). Subject to Canadian Securities Exchange approval, the 2018 Warrant Expiry Date will be extended to August 6, 2020. All other terms of the 2018 Warrants will remain the same.

Say hello to Choom™
Choom™ is an emerging adult use cannabis company whose mission is to establish one of the largest retail networks in Canada. The Choom brand is inspired by Hawaii’s “Choom Gang”—a group of buddies in Honolulu during the 1970’s who loved to smoke weed—or as the locals called it, “Choom”. Evoking the spirit of the original Choom Gang, our brand caters to the Canadian adult use market with the ethos of ‘cultivating good times’. Choom™ is focused on delivering an elevated customer experience through our curated retail environments, offering a diversity of brands for Canadians across a national retail network.

“Chris Bogart” 
President & CEO

Cautionary Statement:


Forward-looking information           
This news release contains forward-looking information relating to the Company’s proposed activities and other statements that are not historical facts. Forward-looking information relates to management’s future outlook and anticipated events or results and include statements or information regarding the future plans or prospects of the Company. Although management of the Company has attempted to identify important factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in forward looking information, there may be other factors that cause results not to be as anticipated, estimated or intended. These factors include risks and uncertainties associated with or arising as a result of delays in obtaining or an inability to obtain required regulatory approvals, access to sufficient quantities of cannabis, the results of diligence investigations, the actions of third parties, the results of negotiations with third parties, developments in the cannabis sector, the ability to access sufficient capital from internal and external sources, reliance on key personnel, regulatory risks and delays and other risks and uncertainties discussed in the management discussion and analysis section of the Company’s interim and most recent annual financial statement or other reports and filings, including those made with the CSE and applicable Canadian securities regulators. There can be no assurance that such forward looking information will prove to be accurate, as actual results and future events could differ materially from those anticipated in such statements. Accordingly, readers should not place undue reliance on forward looking information.

SOURCE Choom Holdings Inc.

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