Fall River, Mass., Mayor Jasiel Correia II was arrested Sept. 6 and charged with extorting hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and campaign contributions out of local cannabis business owners by accepting bribes in exchange for license approval.
Specific charges against Correia include: bribery, extortion conspiracy, extortion and aiding and abetting, wire fraud, and filing false tax returns. (Apart from the cannabis extortion, Correia is also accused of taking former chief of staff Genoveva Andrade’s salary as part of another scheme, according to court documents. Andrade was also charged with extortion conspiracy; extortion; theft and bribery; and false statements.)
Correia has written 14 “letters of non-opposition” for cannabis businesses seeking to operate in Fall River. In Massachusetts, that sort of local approval is needed before a business can pursue a state license. Local approval also requires a host community agreement—a form of contract in Massachusetts’ cannabis industry that allows municipal officials to work out particular financial or economic deals with business owners as part of operating within the city or town.
According to U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling’s office, Correia’s bribes ranged from $100,000 to $250,000 in cash, campaign contributions and mortgage discharges.
“Marijuana was also exchanged for resale,” Lelling’s office writes, detailing the extortion conspiracy. “It is alleged that Andrade and Correia met with marijuana vendors and discussed signing non-opposition letters in return for cash.”
According to the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, only three licenses have been approved by the state in Fall River: Northeast Alternatives Inc.’s cultivation, product manufacturing and retail licenses. The state has issued three provisional licenses for Fall River businesses: Greener Leaf, Hope Heal Health, and Nature's Medicines, but they have not officially opened yet.
In August 2019, Fall River City Council approved an ordinance to limit the number of cannabis businesses in the city to 11 (or 20 percent of off-premise liquor licenses, if that number is larger than 11). One week after that ordinance passed, Correia vetoed the legislation.
"Without hesitation, Mayor Correia was extorting marijuana vendor after marijuana vendor," Lelling said at a press conference. "It's striking the lengths he went to get the money, and the seeming indifference with how overt his activities were."
Editor’s note: This piece was originally included as a sidebar in Kenneth Morrow’s September 2019 column.
I admire this simple example of sustainability done right…
Anthony Myint is co-founder of several San Francisco restaurants, including Mission Chinese Food and Commonwealth. In April 2019, Myint and his partner Karen Leibowitz decided to add a 1-percent surcharge onto their restaurants’ bills as part of the Restore California Renewable Restaurants initiative. Proceeds from that initiative go to California’s Healthy Soil Program, which helps farmers transition to methods that put carbon back in the soil. In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle,Myint stated that if 1 percent of restaurants in California participated in this program it would generate $10 million annually toward healthy soils. The program is completely voluntary and customers can ask that the surcharge be removed from their bill.
When I first became aware of Myint’s initiative, I found it very proactive, farmer-friendly. I shared Myint’s initiative on my Instagram feed and received this comment: “sounds nice…. But Cali doesn’t need another tax… Especially from food and agriculture department. Should add this tax to cannabis and try and make up some more (insert crying face emoji).”
I am torn about that comment. No, California does not need another tax, as it already has the highest income tax rate in the U.S., among a abundance of other taxes from fuel to sugary drinks. In that sense, I get it.
But again, this initiative is voluntary. Would I choose to pay a 1-percent surcharge at a fast food restaurant that exploits the workers that cook food that is bad for me? Absolutely not! Yet it would be an absolute pleasure to pay a 1-percent surcharge to an establishment that operates in a sustainable manner and incentivizes and rewards the local farmers that produce their food—and cares enough about their food producers to pay a premium price for premium products produced in a sustainable manner with a focus on healthy soil composition.
And it seems others agree: the Basque culinary world prize was just awarded Myint and his wife/co-owner 100,000 euros for their work to fight climate change through “zerofoodprint” which is an initiative to help restaurants reduce their carbon footprint.
Could this model be replicated in the cannabis space? I personally would choose to pay a higher price to a grower for superior products produced in a sustainable manner. And I believe others will too.
Earlier this year, in May, California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office amended its 2019 and 2020 cannabis revenue tax projections: from $355 million to $288 million (in 2019) and from $514 million to $359 million (in 2020).
Something similar happened in Sonoma County, where supervisors saw a shortfall in tax revenue in the 2017-2018 fiscal year and adjusted the 2018-2019 fiscal year projections. The 2018-2019 fiscal year ended in Sonoma County on June 30, and the county had surpassed its conservative projection by nearly $1 million.
“The cannabis program is still relatively new, and the budget projections were conservative,” Sonoma County Administrative Analyst Hannah Euser told the North Bay Business Journal. “There was also an increase in permitted operations in industrial zones over previous years.”
In short: The cannabis industry continues to grow in California, but not to the point that public officials are feeling the confidence that comes with an anticipated tax wellspring. Part of this stems from California’s precarious position of having the world’s largest cannabis market burdened by high tax rates and regulatory costs—which keeps the illicit market thriving and the tax boon at bay.
Revenues from the licensed marketplace are up year-over-year, from 2018 to 2019, but not enough to satisfy early hopes for the state.
The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy pointed out that California’s cannabis tax revenue is lagging behind nearly every other state that has legalized cannabis and built out a regulated marketplace. (Massachusetts is the only state that has opened the door to adult-use sales since California did so, and it’s the only state that is bringing in less revenue through cannabis taxes per capita).
“This lackluster performance is partly due to the legal market’s short tenure … and partly due to policies that make it more difficult than average to open a legal cannabis store in California—and easier than average to operate an illegal one,” according to research director Carl Davis.
马萨诸塞瀑布河.今年9月6日，市长贾西尔·科里亚二世( Jasiel Corria II )被逮捕，罪名是通过收受贿赂换取许可证，从当地大麻经营者那里勒索数十万美元现金和竞选捐款。
具体指控包括：贿赂、敲诈勒索阴谋、敲诈勒索和教唆、电信诈骗和提交虚假纳税申报表。（法庭文件显示，除了大麻勒索以外， Corria 还被控将前参谋长 Genoviva Andrade 的工资作为另一项计划的一部分。 Andrade 还被控勒索阴谋、勒索、盗窃和贿赂以及虚假陈述。）
勒林办公室写道：“大麻也被换来转卖。”他详细描述了勒索阴谋。“据称 Andrade 和 Corria 会见了大麻供应商，并讨论了签署非反对派信件以换取现金。”
根据马萨诸塞州坎纳比斯控制委员会的说法，只有三个许可证获得了该州在 Fall River 的批准：东北替代品公司的种植、产品制造和零售许可证。该州已经为 Fall River 企业颁发了三个临时执照： Greener Leaf 、 Hope Heal Health 和 Nature's Medicines ，但尚未正式开业。
2019年8月， Fall River 市议会批准了一项法令，将该市大麻企业的数量限制在11家（如果这个数字大于11家，则占非本地酒类许可证的20%）。该法令通过一周后， Corria 否决了该法案。
Anthony Myint 是旧金山几家餐厅的联合创始人，包括 Mission Chinese Food 和 Commonwealth 。2019年4月， Myint 和他的合作伙伴 Karen Leibowitz 决定在餐馆的账单上增加1%的附加费，作为 Restore California 可再生餐厅计划的一部分。该倡议的收益将用于加州的健康土壤计划，该计划帮助农民过渡到将碳放回土壤中的方法。在接受《旧金山纪事报》采访时， Myint 说，如果加州1%的餐馆参与这个项目，每年将为健康土壤带来1000万美元的收入。该计划是完全自愿的，客户可以要求从他们的账单中扣除附加费。
当我第一次意识到 Myint 的倡议时，我发现它非常积极主动，对农民友好。我在 Instagram feed 上分享了 Myint 的创意，并接受了这个评论：“听起来很棒……”。但 Cali 不需要另外的税收，特别是来自食品和农业部门的税收。应该给大麻加税，尝试再加税（插入哭泣的表情符号）。”
其他人似乎也认同这一点：巴斯克烹饪世界大奖刚刚授予 Myint 和他的妻子/共同所有人10万欧元，用于他们通过“零食打印”( zerofoodprint )对抗气候变化的工作，这是一项帮助餐厅减少碳足迹的举措。
今年早些时候，在5月，加利福尼亚州州长。Gavin Newsom 的办公室修正了其2019年和2020年大麻税收预测：从3.55亿美元到2.88亿美元（2019年），从5.14亿美元到3.59亿美元（2020年）。
“大麻计划仍相对较新，预算预测较为保守，”索诺马县行政分析师 Hannah Euser 对《北湾商业日报》表示。“与前几年相比，允许在工业区开展的业务也有所增加。”
美国税收与经济政策研究所( Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy )指出，加州大麻税收入几乎落后于其他所有大麻合法化并建立监管市场的州。（马萨诸塞州是自加州开始允许成人使用大麻销售的唯一州，也是唯一通过人均大麻税减少收入的州）。
研究主管卡尔•戴维斯( Carl Davis )表示：“这种乏善可陈的表现，在一定程度上是由于法律市场的任期较短……部分原因是政策使得在加州开设合法大麻商店比一般人更困难，而且比一般人更容易操作非法大麻。”