Behind the Drive to Legalize Pot in Europe, Peter Thiel and Silicon Valley

In an article titled “How Peter Thiel bets on cannabis” the French economic daily Les Echos wrote in 2018 that Peter Thiel, a U.S. libertarian billionaire, “was the first venture capitalist to invest in the legal cannabis market”. A co-founder of Paypal and an early investor in Facebook, Thiel is most known for creating, with CIA funding, the AI firm Palantir. Less known is his investment, in step with a circle of traders working for the Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), in the cannabusiness.

To finance start-ups in various fields, Thiel and his SVB group first created the “Founders Fund” ($11 billion under management as of 2022). In 2015, that fund invested in “Privateer Holdings”, a private equity company company investing in the legal (fake “medical”) cannabis industry. The company’s website states up front that it “represents a group of investors from around the world seeking to end cannabis prohibition and the social harms it causes. Through a combination of acquisitions, investments and incubation, we are focused on building a portfolio of global brands that will lead, legitimize and define the future of cannabis.” Today, Privateer Holding owns 76% of Tilray (with a stake of $15 billion), one of the world’s largest “medical” cannabis producers. In 2019, Privateer and Tilray merged completely.

Thiel “bets on a development similar to that of alcohol since the end of prohibition” wrote Les Echos. His move followed Canada’s decision to legalize both “medical” and “recreational” use of cannabis in 2018, as well as Trump’s decision that same year to legalize the production of hemp by removing it from the Schedule I list of controlled substances under federal law.

Today, Tilray is behind the drive to legalize cannabis. In Germany, the government, before announcing its intention to “legalize” cannabis, held a round-table with Tilray and other participants. Afterwards, Tilray announced it had had “a good conversation” with officials to “kick-off draft legislation” in the “coming months.”

On Nov. 7, the pro-cannabis website wrote that “For more than a year, we have discussed how Germany could create a domino type effect for legal cannabis in the EU and our hypothesis is already starting to prove to be accurate. Last week, the Czech coalition government reported to be drafting a bill to regulate the cannabis industry.” The government had already commissioned the drafting of a law to “legalize adult-use cannabis”.

The website says it is “bullish” on the German cannabis market, and goes on to detail Tilray’s efforts on the cannabis markets of Italy, Portugal, Spain, France, Switzerland, Malta and Luxembourg. “We consider Tilray Brands to be a leading play on the EU and want our readers to be aware of it”, the article says.

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