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Federal grand jury investigating municipal marijuana contracts

At least six communities — Great Barrington, Eastham, Leicester, Newton, Northampton, and Uxbridge — have received subpoenas.

Nugs of marijuana await packaging at the Hollingsworth Cannabis Company near Shelton, Wash.

A grand jury convened by US Attorney Andrew Lelling is investigating contracts and payments between Massachusetts municipalities and the marijuana companies they host, a major escalation of an effort by federal prosecutors to crack down on local corruption related to the burgeoning cannabis industry.

At least six communities — Great Barrington, Eastham, Leicester, Newton, Northampton, and Uxbridge — confirmed Monday they have received subpoenas from Lelling’s office seeking information about so-called host community agreements.

The controversial contracts, which each recreational marijuana firm must sign with the community in which it hopes to operate before applying for a state license, typically call for substantial payments to the municipality. Critics have long charged that local officials frequently demand more money than allowed under state law and that the state’s system of strong local control over cannabis companies is ripe for corruption.

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