FALL RIVER — With federal charges looming over Mayor Jasiel Correia II over accusations he extorted four of the 14 marijuana vendors who received letters of non-opposition from him, the City Council expressed frustration over the issue Tuesday.
Corporation Counsel Joseph Macy, at the request of City Council Vice President Pam Laliberte-Lebeau, explained his position regarding the Cannabis Control Commission’s request that the city “recertify” a number of host agreements signed by the mayor, a process to determine if they meet “compliance with all local permits, rules, regulations and ordinances,” the state commission told the city.
Last week, Macy indicated that he had no intention of complying with the state commission’s order.
“Essentially there is no recertification process,” Macy said. “Never heard of it and nobody else has, either.”
Macy said the state marijuana statute does not address recertification.
“There is certainly no provision in the statute for a corporation counsel of any city or town solicitor to such a certification,” Macy said. “The certification that they are looking for goes well beyond the usual, initial certification that we’ve been granting as a matter of course.”
A CCC spokesperson did not respond to requests for comment.
Following the mayor’s Sept. 6 arrest, representatives from the city’s legislative delegation asked the CCC to delay approval of pending retail or medical marijuana applications for Fall River and temporarily halt the issuance of licenses for Fall River businesses.
A proposed bill was filed soon after the arrest – Correia’s second in less than a year – by New Bedford state Rep. Christopher Markey that would place a moratorium on marijuana establishments in Fall River specifically.
Council members supported Macy’s position.
“It is in the CCC’s lap right now, but as far as we’re concerned in Fall River, the thing that holds everything up is the status of the criminal charges and what happens there and that concerns me,” City Councilor Stephen Long said. “If someone did something illegal, then they should pay a price.”
A federal 24-count indictment against Correia includes allegations that he extorted $600,000 from marijuana vendors through a pay-to-play scheme.
None of the four marijuana vendors are facing charges.
“But the other thing I am very concerned is you have a lot of money invested here and I’ll assume at this point that it’s legitimate investments and it’s on hold,” said Long. “A lot of people have gained employment in these operations and they are pretty big operations.”
To date, the city has one operating recreational marijuana establishment, Northeast Alternatives, and two medical marijuana establishments, Hope Heal Health and Nature’s Medicine.
Long said that until Correia’s criminal case is resolved, “everybody’s hands are kind of tied.”
“Until that’s done we’re not going to get anywhere with anything and that includes the CCC and everyone else,” said Long.
City Councilor Leo Pelletier, who instigated the council’s push to limit the amount of marijuana licenses in the city to 11, said the CCC should take a stand.
“The ones who gave a bribe, the ones who asked to give a bribe, they’ve got to seriously consider, I think, not getting their license,” said Pelletier. “I think the longer they wait to do something, the worse it gets for the city.”
The CCC was scheduled to meet Thursday for its monthly meeting. A discussion regarding Fall River was on the agenda.
Email Jo C. Goode at firstname.lastname@example.org.