By making local officials the gatekeepers for million-dollar businesses, states created a breeding ground for bribery and favoritism.
Jasiel Correia’s star was rising.
The son of Cape Verdean immigrants in the working-class Massachusetts port city of Fall River — famed as the home of Lizzie Borden — Correia was a home-grown prodigy. At 23, he was elected mayor, fielding congratulatory calls from Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Joe Kennedy.
That was in 2015. Four years later, just a week before his reelection race, federal agents ignominiously led him away from his home in handcuffs and charged him with attempting to extort cannabis companies of $600,000 in exchange for granting them lucrative licenses to sell weed in his impoverished city.
“Mayor Correia has engaged in an outrageous brazen campaign of corruption, which turned his job into a personal ATM,” declared U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling during a press conference announcing the charges.
The downfall of Fall River’s young mayor wasn’t just a tragedy for the thousands of people who invested their hopes in him: It was emblematic of a rash of cannabis-related corruption across the nation, from Massachusetts to California to Arkansas and beyond.