“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, that there’s a vulnerability to abuse by local officials, and this should not be the case.”
The issue of 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 $600,000 in cash.
According to the indictment, Correia agreed to issue non-opposition letters to marijuana vendors, which are required in order to operate in Massachusetts, in return for bribes and other payments.
Lelling said he’s concerned, “You have a situation where local authorities, 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,” said Lelling.
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.