On the most recent episode of its weekly podcast, the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced it was aware of public corruption – including bribes – in cannabis business licensing and is seeking information into companies that may have obtained a permit illegally.
FBI Supervisory Special Agent Regino Chavez said during a short interview that the agency has seen payoffs as much as $500,000 by individuals seeking a license to operate a cannabis business.
FBI Public Affairs Specialist Mollie Halpern, the host of the podcast, claimed that “the corruption is more prevalent in western states” because “the licensing is decentralized.”
“…Meaning the level of corruption can span from the highest to the lowest level of public officials,” she said.
In 2017, the FBI arrested three Michigan men accused of attempting to bribe a Garden City city council member with $15,000 in cash for a medical cannabis license. The officials contacted the FBI, who arrested Mike Baydoun, his nephew Jalal Baydoun, and another relative Ali Baydoun, according to a Detroit Free Press report. Mike was sentenced to 18 months in prison, his nephew was sentenced to one year and a day, while Ali was given three years of probation in the case.
In 2018, following legalization in California, there were several cases of bribery scandal in the state, including the arrest of a Humboldt County Planning and Building inspector, who allegedly accepted payoffs for fast-tracking permits for industry operators, and the arrest and firing of Adelanto Mayor Rich Kerr and City Manager Gabriel Elliot for allegedly taking bribes from cannabis businesses for licensing and to stop some enforcement on the businesses.
Intelligence Analyst David Kirschner said the agency would help ensure “the corruption doesn’t spread to this new industry.”