Temptation for local officials to line their pockets with money from marijuana vendors is a concern for U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling.
– News covered by Quincy Quarry News with commentary added.
Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II marijuana extortion case a ‘wake-up call,’ watchdog says.
“When the government takes the control of a monopoly business, it becomes vulnerable to abuse,” said Greg Sullivan, research director at the Pioneer Institute and former state inspector general. “Everywhere that licenses are being issued, there’s a vulnerability to abuse by local officials, and this should not be the case.”
In turn, the temptation for local officials to line their pockets with money from marijuana vendors has become a concern for U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling.
Local officials having the sole discretion in granting marijuana vendors a letter of non-opposition was highlighted by U.S Attorney Andrew Lelling Friday morning following the arrest of Fall River Mayor Jasiel Correia II on charges he extorted marijuana vendors for over half a million dollars as well as a fair amount of “free” product samples.
Said Lelling, “You have a situation where local authorities, (say, ed.) local mayors, could be sorely tempted to take some kind of bribe or extort some kind of payment in exchange for a letter, and that single letter can be the ticket to a marijuana dispensary opening a very lucrative business in a given town.”
“Public officials, even in seemingly minor roles, can have tremendous power over the lives of private citizens,” added Lelling.
Pioneer Institute researcher Greg Sullivan said the system is “rigged” and the situation should be a “wake-up call” for the Cannabis Control Commission, adding that a local official can easily blackmail a vendor by threatening not to grant them the coveted letter of non-opposition.
“When some government official sitting in some office somewhere has the ability to tap that company with a magic wand and make them multimillionaires, that’s vulnerability to abuse, and it was not supposed to be that way,” said Sullivan.
And in perhaps while under the influence statement, pro-pot advocate Jim Borghesani inexplicably noted in a prepared statement that while he applauds Lelling for bringing charges against Mayor Jasiel Correia for his bribery scheme, “… I hope that this egregious example does not eclipse the similar financial shakedowns on the cannabis industry present in nearly every Host Community Agreement signed to date in Massachusetts.”
A Cannabis Control Commission spokeswoman said the agency is reviewing the indictment against Correia and will monitor any ongoing investigation to protect the integrity of the licensing process for pot shops.
The commission has the authority to exercise its discretion to make a decision about a vendor’s qualifications for licensure, not that anyone really expects it to aggressively do so.