Any cannabis business owner will tell you that among the challenges in establishing and running a business are the numerous opportunities for learning intense patience and developing a buddha-like nature when dealing with city governments.
Now, to their credit, cannabis is just as new to governments as it is to the private sector, and even though it is always a slow, expensive, and flawed process, the industry continues to expand. Although frustrating at times, these governments recognize the value in helping grow this nascent source of jobs, development, and tax revenue.
Then there is Fall River, Massachusetts.
The city of nearly 90,000, located about 50 miles south of Boston, is the 10th largest in the state. As with all Massachusetts cities, if you want to open a dispensary in Fall River, you need to get a “non-opposition” letter from the city indicating where you plan to open your business. That allows you to get your state permit, and now you can sell herb to bedroom-community Bostonites. Wicked pissa pot bro!
In Fall River, however, there has been an unknown but hefty unofficial tax collected, privately, by the mayor. That tax has been taken from businesses trying to get that critical “non-opposition” letter. While “Kickback Kush” hasn’t hit the shelves there yet, judging by this twisted tale, you might just need to give it time.
Jasiel Correia is Fall River’s 27-year-old mayor, and authorities are charging him with a 24-count indictment that CBS Boston 4 reports includes “accusations of extortion conspiracy, aiding and abetting extortion, and bribery, on top of charges of wire fraud and filing false tax returns that Correia was already facing.”
So, about that.
Last October, Correia was charged with 13 federal fraud counts, related to the business he ran prior to becoming mayor at age 23—meaning this is his second set of indictments in less than a year.
This new round of charges include shaking down businesses seeking the coveted letter.
According to the CBS 4, “Correia was asking for up to $250,000 each from marijuana companies in exchange for ‘non-opposition’ letters. He is said to have received $600,000 in total and some alleged arrangements involved Correia and his co-conspirators getting a cut from future marijuana sales.”
In one case, “a mayoral aide instructed a middleman to leave an envelope stuffed with $25,000 cash in a backyard shed behind the aide’s home.
In another, Correia himself showed up at a marijuana vendor’s business and asked for a quarter million-dollar payment. He also allegedly received $75,000 in cash in the back of a car, and then handed over a letter.”
Correia wasn’t just singling out cannabis businesses exclusively, having demanded a $10,000 “Batman” Rolex from one permit seeker, and even required that his own chief of staff pay him half of her salary and a $10,000 bonus.
Correia faces an election on September 17.
Yeah. Good luck with that.