Could public corruption be threatening the state-legal marijuana industry?
“We’ve seen in some states the price go as high as $500,000 for a license to sell marijuana,” Supervisory Special Agent Regino Chavez said. “So, we see people willing to pay large amounts of money to get into the industry.”
States with decentralized licensing are at the greatest risk of corruption, authorities said.
The legal status of cannabis remains iffy, even in states that have passed laws legalizing medical and recreational pot. The federal government still considers marijuana illegal, with the DEA listing it as a Schedule I drug — meaning officials believe it has a high potential for abuse.
Having the FBI investigating improper conduct related to the industry — but not businesses playing by the rules — is “de facto recognition for us,” California cannabis attorney Henry Wykowski, a former federal prosecutor, told Marijuana Business Daily this week.
“It’s part of a trend,” he said. “As cannabis becomes more mainstream, all these different groups that have ignored us in the past are starting to pay attention to us.”
Government agencies have also been looking into antitrust issues, CBD medical claims and cannabis companies’ ability to file for bankruptcy, according to the report.
Wykowski told MBD the marijuana industry is entitled to the same protections other industries receive.
The feds aren’t the only ones looking at illegal activity in the legal pot business. California has tripled the number of raids on unlicensed marijuana shops this year, the Los Angeles Times reported earlier this summer. Unlicensed growers in the state face fines of up to $30,000 per day.
David Kirschner, an intelligence analyst with the FBI, said states should expect marijuana-related corruption to increase as recreational pot becomes more widespread.
“It’s our role as the FBI to help ensure that the corruption doesn’t spread in this new industry,” he said.