How state marijuana legalization became a boon for corruption

Posted on 1/5/2021 8:57:42 AM

This article in Politico is pretty damning on the issue of local control for cannabis licenses:  

How state marijuana legalization became a boon for corruption
By making local officials the gatekeepers for million-dollar businesses, states created a breeding ground for bribery and favoritism. 

Some highlights:  

Local control is "the biggest mistake that we made," said Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title at a Boston University conference on marijuana law. Title is a longtime drug policy-reform advocate and serves in the Commission's social justice seat. As someone who helped draft Massachusetts’s legalization law, Title said, she takes responsibility for those shortcomings.

"It was just unbelievable … the level of corruption was shocking to me," said Mildred Barnes Griggs, who was part of a team that applied for but did not receive a license in Arkansas, and responded with a series of official complaints alleging favoritism and a lack of accountability. "Open corruption. Corruption that went unpunished."

States that have largely avoided corruption controversies either do not have license caps — like Colorado or Oklahoma — or dole out a limited number of licenses through a lottery rather than scoring the applicants by merit — like Arizona. Many entrepreneurs, particularly those who lost out on license applications, believe the government shouldn't be in the business of picking winners and losers and should just let the free market do its job.

"It was far more political than I had ever anticipated," said Barnes Griggs of her application experience. "People were encouraged to apply, but you didn't stand a chance. It was already rigged."

Are the approaches of Colorado, Oklahoma, or Arizona the way to go?