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Friday, September 22, 2023

It’s time to weed out the issues at the Cannabis Commission, lawmakers say

If you’ve been wondering what’s up with the state’s Cannabis Control Commission lately then you are not the only one.

On Monday, five lawmakers wrote to the joint committee overseeing the state’s marijuana regulators to ask them to look into what is bringing the CCC to “crisis.”

“Since its creation in 2017, The Cannabis Control Commission has faced what sometimes feels like an endless stream of scandals. The public deserves some accountability on why these issues have proven so hard to stamp out, and what long-term changes the agency is making to get its work done with more transparency and efficiency,” State Sen. Michael Moore said in a statement Monday.

Moore, in a letter sent to the chairs of the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy, cites several recent headlines surrounding the commission as his reason for asking his colleagues to hold hearings on the matter.

Last week, Commission Chair Shannon O’Brien was unceremoniously suspended by Treasurer Deb Goldberg. No reason has been given for O’Brien’s with-pay suspension. Her removal came after she declared in July the commission was “in crisis.”

O’Brien’s tenure began with the public learning she was listed in a pair of marijuana license cultivation applications, despite her position. Licensees have testified to legislative committees over retaliation by commission investigators and complained about transparency.

“As we all know, the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) is not performing as it should. Our
constituents, media reports, and even the actions and words of the CCC itself have repeatedly made clear that action is desperately needed to bring oversight, transparency, and accountability to the CCC,” the letter reads.

Also signed by Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, Sen. Michael Brady, Rep. Michael Soter, and Rep. Don Berthiaume, the letter goes on to ask the committee to determine who is leading the commission in O’Brien’s absence, how long she will be gone, and what led to her temporary ouster.

“The legislature needs to ensure that statutory requirements are complied with and examine what steps are needed to finally bring stability to the CCC,” the letter reads, in part.

The lawmakers point out that even while complaints pile up and turmoil takes over the headlines, the commission is also asking the Legislature to give them more money.

“Considering the 23% funding increase the CCC requested during FY24 budget negotiations, it is now more critical than ever that we make sure this agency has a plan to right the ship. Millions of our tax dollars are at stake – I am hopeful the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy will schedule a hearing to get answers from the top brass at the CCC,” Moore said.

The letter is addressed to committee Chairs Sen. Adam Gomez and Rep. Daniel Donahue.

The CCC unanimously appointed Commissioner Ava Callender Concepcion as acting chair on Monday morning.

In a statement sent to the press on Monday, Moore said his office has received complaints about a hostile work environment at the CCC, which he has referred to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and the State Auditor.

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