FBI Seeking Leads On Illegal Cannabis Operations and Industry Corruption

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on Thursday announced it is looking into the threat of potential corruption within the nascent marijuana industry and actively is seeking tips regarding illegal cannabis operations.

The warning and call to action were discussed on the agency’s FBI This Week podcast, though it remains unclear if any specific incident prompted the broadcast.



Audio Transcript

Mollie Halpern: As an increasing number of states change their marijuana legislation, the FBI is seeing a public corruption threat emerge in the expanding cannabis industry.

States require licenses to grow and sell the drug—opening the possibility for public officials to become susceptible to bribes in exchange for those licenses.

Supervisory Special Agent Regino Chavez…

Regino Chavez: We’ve seen in some states the price go as high as $500,000 for a license to sell marijuana. So, we see people willing to pay large amounts of money to get in to the industry.

Halpern: The corruption is more prevalent in western states where the licensing is decentralized—meaning the level of corruption can span from the highest to the lowest level of public officials.

As recreational marijuana becomes more widespread, Intelligence Analyst David Kirschner says states should expect the corruption problem to increase.

David Kirschner: It’s our role as the FBI to help to ensure that the corruption doesn’t spread in this new industry.

Halpern: If you suspect a dispensary is operating with an illegally obtained license, or suspect public corruption in the marijuana industry, contact your local FBI field office. With FBI, This Week, I’m Mollie Halpern of the Bureau.