A Longer Wait For The Next Chapter In The Saga Of Suspended CCC Chair

Mass Treasurer Deb Goldberg (lt) and suspended Cannabis Control Commission Chair Shannon O’Brien (rt)

Suspended Chair Shannon O’Brien’s meeting with appointing state Treasurer Deb Goldberg is pushed back. As cannabis commissioners carry out duties under placeholders, major questions still loom around leadership.

Things have been so quiet around the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission these past few weeks that one could almost forget the preceding pandemonium.

Part of the relative noiselessness comes from the body’s meeting several times in private executive sessions outside of public view to presumably address the challenges that put them in a negative national light—but they’ve also performed competently in some big ways of late. With a temporary chair and acting executive director in place, they completed a complicated regulatory rewrite ahead of deadline, jumped into social consumption, and released their annual report highlighting noteworthy achievements.

Hovering in the clouds over so much progress, however, is the fate of CCC Chair Shannon O’Brien and the anticipation of whatever comes from that decision—from its impact on the chain of command, to revelations that may surface in the process. State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, who appointed O’Brien to the top spot last year, suspended the chair in September, setting off a firestorm of frustration and speculation. This all happened shortly after an embarrassing rift between O’Brien and CCC Executive Director Shawn Collins during a public meeting, and amidst calls by state lawmakers for increased oversight of the “dysfunctional” agency.

Following the excommunication which required O’Brien to hand over her laptop, the chair sought an injunction barring Goldberg “from continuing her unlawful removal of O’Brien from her position at the CCC.” The suspended chair said she was booted “without notice, without articulated reason, and without any opportunity to be heard, all of which is required by [Massachusetts law].”

O’Brien was initially scheduled to have her day in Suffolk County Superior Court. But after the treasurer agreed to hear the chair out in a less formal setting, the court date was called off. In its place, Goldberg was scheduled to meet with O’Brien this week.

Last Friday, Colin Young of State House News Service reported that the anticipated meeting was pushed back—to Dec. 5. Adding to the intrigue, Young noted that “while O’Brien seems to think the sit-down will be a public hearing … Goldberg’s office has more frequently referred to the huddle with O’Brien as a meeting and has said details on the format are not available.” To be continued … 

The CCC meets again in executive session today, and has its next public meeting this Thursday, Nov. 9. Among other items on their agenda, commissioners will discuss the appointment of Acting Chair Ava Callender Concepcion, who was tapped by colleagues for the interim position in September.