Three state representatives from Fall River want marijuana regulators to temporarily stop issuing licenses to applicants in the city, following last week’s arrest of the Fall River mayor for allegedly extorting four marijuana vendors.
In a letter sent to the commission Tuesday, state representatives Carole Fiola, Paul Schmid, and Alan Silvia said the system for marijuana companies to receive necessary local permissions in Fall River appears “to have been compromised.”
Fall River Mayor Jasiel F. Correia II was arrested Friday on charges he extorted four marijuana companies for hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for non-opposition letters that some companies need to move ahead in the licensing process.
“As such, there are many outstanding questions regarding how the letters of non-opposition and community host agreements were issued and whether the documents were issued in a legally binding fashion given the circumstances,” the representatives said. “In addition, questions arise as to whether other parties interested in establishing retail and/or medical marijuana facilities were denied letters of non-opposition because they refused to participate in the alleged nefarious action of Mayor Correia.”
In the days since Correia’s arrest, local and federal leaders including Governor Charlie Baker have spoken out about the system that, in many cases, gives just a single municipal leader the power to decide whether to grant a marijuana company a license.
FBI Special Agent in Charge Joseph Bonavolonta said the process is “a perfect storm for corruption.” Baker told the Globe this week the state might need to put new controls in place because it’s “a legit concern.”
The representatives told the commission Fall River is facing a “serious challenge,” asking the regulators “to ensure that trust, confidence and integrity in the licensing process can be restored here and throughout the Commonwealth.”
The commission said Wednesday it is continuing to monitor developments from US Attorney Andrew Lelling’s investigation of Correia, and it will determine whether any additional action is needed as more information about the unnamed marijuana vendors in the indictment becomes available.
The commission’s next public meeting — during which it approves or denies provisional and final licenses for marijuana applicants — is Thursday. No Fall River applicants are listed on the agenda for a vote.