29 December 2020
Over the past 10 years 15 states have legalized sale of marijuana for adults over 21, and another 17 have legalised medical marijuana. These states wanted to limit the number of outlets and at the same time give the freedom to the municipalities to decide the location of the outlets. So the states entrusted licensing process to the municipalities. The led to great opportunities for corruption at municipal level in granting licences.
Fall River, Mayor Jasiel Correia was charged last year with attempting to extort cannabis companies of $600,000 in exchange for granting them lucrative licenses to sell weed in his impoverished city. Correia is a son of Cape Verde immigrants in the working-class Massachusetts port city of Fall River. At 23 he was elected mayor. A year earlier, he was indicted on charges of wire fraud and filing false tax returns in connection with his tech startup.
According to the indictment, in Fall River, which has a population of roughly 90,000, the cost of obtaining a letter of local approval from Correia’s City Hall was anywhere from $100,000 to $250,000 in bribes. One vendor even agreed to give 2% of his sale to Correia’s middle man.
Correia’s chief of staff, Genoveva Andrade, pleaded guilty to bribery and extortion charges in December. Andrade conspired with Correia to obtain a stream of benefits, including cash and a Rolex watch valued at approximately $7,500 to $12,000, in exchange for official action and assistance that was favourable to the business owner.
Andrade was hired by Correia in November 2017 as chief of staff. Andrade began tp pay kick back half of her salary to Correia on a bi-weekly basis until July 2018. She also kicked back nearly all of the $10,000 city-funded “snow stipend” that Correia approved for Andrade.
Correia is scheduled to go to trial in February, and five marijuana applicants are expected to testify for the prosecution.
Politico.com and Attorney’s Office of the District of Massachusetts.reported.