Cannabis License Bribes – Does $ 150,000 and 15 Pounds of Weed Sound Right?
How a Massachusetts mayor took $ 200,000 bribes and pounds of weed in order to recommend certain groups for a cannabis license.
News broke in recent weeks the FBI was jumping into the cannabis industry in order to investigate improper terms and agreements in the legal cannabis area. This news was met with mixed results as the cannabis plant is still illegal under Federal law and the FBI is usually the one breaking down the door of marijuana growers. On the other hand, there was so much corruption being report in the cannabis space, especially in Massachusetts, that didn’t someone at the Federal level that upholds the law have to jump in, regardless of the subject matter being cannabis.
We may have our first answer to “why is the FBI getting into cannabis now?” coming out of Massachusetts and the much maligned young mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts.
If you thought life couldn’t get any worse for the young mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, Jasiel Correia II, you were wrong. The young mayor, already under indictment by the Federal government for extortion, got arrested by the FBI for extortion again, this time for a marijuana bribery scheme. As the USA Today article points out:
27 Year-old Jasiel Correia II, the already embattled mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts, was arrested Friday on new federal extortion charges for allegedly operating a scheme to help marijuana vendors get approval to operate in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.
Prosecutors say Correia agreed to sign non-opposition letters in return for significant six-figure payments from four marijuana vendors looking to open businesses in the city of nearly 90,000 about an hour’s drive south of Boston. The letters are required to obtain a license to operate a marijuana business in Massachusetts, where cannabis is legal.
It marks the second time in less than a year that Correia, first elected in 2015, has been indicted. He was arrested in October on charges he defrauded investors of an app company he co-owns by pocketing 64% of their payments to bankroll what prosecutors called his “lavish lifestyle” and political career. He’s pleaded not guilty to those charges as well.
He now faces 24 total charges — 13 from last year’s arrest and 11 new charges — including bribery, extortion conspiracy, extortion and aiding and abetting, wire fraud, and filing false tax returns.
How did the cannabis bribe scheme work?
Correria, the mayor of Fall River, had signed 14 non-opposition letters for marijuana businesses since taking office. The letter is needed in Massachusetts as a “blessing” from the mayor of the host community in order to submit your application to get a license for a marijuana business. The first problem was that two of the first fourteen letters were for his girlfriend’s brother. The indictment says that in exchange for his signature on a non-opposition letter two vendors agreed to pay the mayor $ 250,000 in one case, $ 150,000 in another, and a third agreed to $ 100,000. In an agreement with another of the applicants Correia agreed to have compensation come in the form of weed, campaign contributions, and mortgage discharges. The one witness claimed Correia was to receive 12 to 15 pounds of marijuana in addiction to a $ 150,000 cash payment. Mind you, this is not for a license in Massachusetts to sell cannabis, this is just for a non-opposition letter from the mayor of the host community.
Not shockingly in August, Correia vetoed an ordinance from the Fall River City Council to cap cannabis licenses at 11 in Fall River. Correia did not want to see the money train dry up so fast, so he knew to keep the cannabis business licenses unlimited in number. Why kill the golden goose so fast, right?
Don’t forget our story at Cannabis.net on how Massachusetts landlords now are extorting license applicants and controlling who and who doesn’t get a license in a host community. Remember also, the Boston Globe expose on how host towns were forcing applicants to give $ 50,000 a year to the police fund and up to 7% of revenue back to the town, all illegal of course.
Which now begs the question, is $ 200,000 and 15 pounds of weed a decent enough bribe if you were guaranteed a cannabis license in Massachusetts? Let’s say it was legal, an eBay bidding system open to public viewing and transparent, and the winning bids were around $ 200,000 cash and 15 pounds of weed. Too high? To low when you consider the lifetime value of a customer in wealthy state like Massachusetts?
If I was an applicant and using game-theory techniques with Correria, I would want the lowest possible cash payment and most amount of weed deal. Once you give him the cash it is gone forever, and you have to earn it back. The cannabis you can grow and grow and get a new crop every 12 to 16 weeks. You can syphon off a pound or two every few months and pass it along to him. Have a batch that was not great or didn’t dry right, seal it up and give it to him, almost like a lost leader in a store. I would have gone with the $ 100,000 and 20 pounds of weed over a year or two figuring that in the end he will just spend the money on his bills, but if you keep giving him weed, you remain valuable to him and he always have something he wants, at least you get some leverage.
What do you think? What would you offer at the table in the back of the seedy bar you met his manager at last Tuesday night?