Former Oregon first lady Cylvia Hayes bolstered her brand as a budding cannabis consultant this week, traveling to Colorado as a featured speaker at major marijuana industry event.
Hayes on Thursday hosted the keynote session at the National Cannabis Industry Association’s Seed to Show conference in Denver. The conference panel over which she presided was called “Growing Your Business with Good in Mind: Corporate Social Responsibility.”
The appearance comes about a month after Oregon ethics officials issued a damning report that found she had misused her public position for personal financial gain as first lady.
A longtime business consultant focused on green energy, Hayes publicly branched out into the marijuana industry last summer with the launch of a sustainable cannabis email newsletter and a pitch to help weed companies “make money in an environmentally sound and socially beneficial manner.”
In a bio for the Denver event, which organizers say drew 3,000 industry professionals from around the country, Hayes billed herself as chief sustainability officer for Deschutes Growery, a recreational pot company based in Bend. A recent article published in the Bend Bulletin reported that the company retained her several months ago as it set a goal to become carbon-neutral.
While it’s unclear how much experience Hayes has in the cannabis industry, she previously acknowledged she had lived at a planned marijuana grow site in a remote area of Washington nearly two decades ago — before the state legalized medical or recreational pot.
Hayes, who became first lady after fiancé John Kitzhaber was elected governor in 2010, earned more than $200,000 during his term from private groups that paid her to advocate for green energy, ocean protection and economic policies.
Those were the same policies she pursued as first lady and an unpaid but official policy adviser to the governor.
That overlap — between Hayes’ role in the governor’s office and her consulting contracts with groups that wanted to influence Oregon’s environmental and economic policies — sparked state and federal criminal investigations.
In a report published in January, the Oregon Government Ethics Commission said it found Hayes had broken ethics laws 22 times.
The commission’s staff found that Hayes was able to obtain private advocacy jobs only because of her status as first lady and unique access to the governor and his staff.
Commissioners could eventually impose penalties of up to $5,000 per violation, for a total of $110,000.