State Lawmakers Propose Bill to Pause Fall River Pot Applications
FALL RIVER — State lawmakers are proposing legislation that would halt all applications for marijuana establishments in Fall River a week after Mayor Jasiel Correia was arrested by federal authorities for allegedly extorting vendors for hundreds of thousands of dollars to open in the city.
State Rep. Chris Markey (D - 9th Bristol) has filed Bill HD.4481 – An Act Moratorium on Marijuana Establishments in the City of Fall River, which aims to temporarily pause the application process in the city until January 15.
Markey says it would allow the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) to investigate whether any licenses issued in the city were involved in the extortion charges against Mayor Correia and to ensure that the approval process is sound. He also says it would provide the opportunity for the City to change its municipal law surrounding the application process and give licensing authority to a group of elected officials rather than just the mayor.
“It just puts the pause button any new application coming in or any application that they are reviewing at this particular time and to not have any issued until January 15 of next year,” Markey said Friday morning on the Chris McCarthy Show.
“I think the idea really comes from a couple things. One, I think the City of Fall River has concerns locally in regards to this process, and I think this time will give them the opportunity in house to describe what I feel is sort of a mess, and then give the authority to a group of people rather than one individual. The more eyes on these things the better off we all are for the integrity of the process.”
The proposed bill reads:
“Any marijuana establishment license application filed pursuant to Section 5 of Chapter 94G of the Massachusetts General Laws, 935 CMR 500.000, and 935 CMR 502.000 in the city of Fall River that has not been granted provisional or final licensure as of September 6, 2019 shall be voided.
Further, no new marijuana establishment license applications filed pursuant to Section 5 of Chapter 94G of the Massachusetts General Laws, 935 CMR 500.000, and 935 CMR 502.000, in the city of Fall River shall be accepted or considered by the Cannabis Control Commission prior to January 15, 2020.”
The state Rep. also says the bill also gives the CCC additional time to investigate which marijuana vendors are involved in the allegations, investigate other potential issues across the state, and help to minimize stigma surrounding the state’s recreational marijuana industry.
“So, that’s one of my concerns, to make sure that its being done above board. It’s also really the stigma related to the marijuana industry, that I think people assume dirty money is involved right off the bat. It’s truly not. It’s a business opportunity for so many people. But, the process has to occur,” Markey explained.
“So, if the Cannabis Control Commission is spending a ton of time on the Fall River investigation to figure out who was involved in any of these allegations, it’s time and resources taken away from every other town and city or applicant that could be applying for a legitimate license.”
Last Friday, Mayor Correia was arrested by federal authorities for the second time in less than a year on government corruption and extortion related charges. In October of 2018, federal authorities arrested him for allegedly defrauding investors in his SnoOwl app.
Correia was due back in federal court in Boston on Friday morning for a bail review hearing, according to the Fall River Herald News.
The Fall River City Council also voted 8-1 on Tuesday to temporarily remove Correia from office. Just hours later, on Wednesday morning, Correia told WBSM's Barry Richard that he does not intend to honor that vote and that he plans to continue serving as mayor.