Grow, Gift, Repair

A bill could change the HCA process

A bill filed by a state legislator from Fall River would change the way marijuana companies receive their local contracts, requiring a majority of a municipality’s city council or select board to sign off.

The local approval process, which often leaves the fate of a marijuana company in the hands of a single municipal leader, has been widely criticized, particularly since the arrest of Mayor Jasiel F. Corriea II of Fall River earlier this month. Correia, who was arrested Sept. 6 for the second time in a year, has been accused of extorting four marijuana companies by refusing to issue them local approval letters unless the vendors paid up.

Many public officials have said that the process for obtaining host community agreements and nonopposition letters — the latter of which are required only for companies looking to serve medical marijuana patients — can be prone to favoritism and bribery when a leader chooses to abuse the system.

The bill filed Friday by state Representative Carole Fiola would require that either type of local agreement be approved by a majority vote of the city council in a city, or of the select board in a town. In cities, the vote would also have to be approved by the mayor or the equivalent in a city without a mayor.

“This bill will ensure that one sole municipal official is not the only person responsible for approval of a host community agreement,” Fiola said in a statement.

The vote would have to be at a meeting, and a notice about the meeting would have to be posted in public places at least seven days ahead of time.

Fiola said she filed the legislation following Correia’s arrest in an effort to close the loophole that allowed for the alleged extortion in Fall River.

“Residents of Fall River and the Commonwealth are wondering why these alleged happenings were even possible and it has caused us to look at current regulations and laws and to address the problem,” she said.