FBI raids near L.A. highlight ongoing corruption tied to marijuana licensing

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Three raids conducted by FBI agents in recent weeks have again put the spotlight on potential corruption related to marijuana business licensing in California.

According to the Los Angeles Times, FBI agents served search warrants on Oct. 28 at the homes of a Compton city councilman and a San Bernardino planning commissioner as well as the law offices of the Baldwin Park city attorney.

All three raids were part of an investigation into Baldwin Park’s marijuana licensing process.

None of the three men have been arrested or charged with any crimes, however, and details of the investigation remain sparse.

But in September, a former Baldwin Park police officer said in a sworn statement that some of the marijuana business operators in the city had been alleging potential extortion, including “paying as much as $250,000 cash in a brown paper bag to city officials.”

Bribery charges have been filed against at least six counties in recent years in connection with marijuana licensing, the Times reported, including Alameda, Humboldt, San Bernardino and Siskiyou Counties, and industry insiders say corruption is rife across the state.

Baldwin Park officials began its marijuana licensing process in 2017 with a cap of 25 permits, and controversy has swirled around the program since then.

Baldwin Park Mayor Manuel Lozano defended his city’s marijuana permitting process and told the Times he’s unaware of any corruption.