“This is not the same place as when we hired our first executive director. … It has evolved.”
On the surface, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission appears to be on sturdier footing this year than it was at many points of a rocky 2023. Members are finally advancing the discussion around social consumption, and as of the end of last year, the CCC had processed its entire queue, with zero applicants still waiting for their first review.
At the same time, human resources issues persist. In addition to clouds hovering above as their suspended Chair Shannon O’Brien awaits a hearing and decision on her fate at the commission, several other critical positions remain open on the staff side—including a DEI director, CIEO, operations director, and the top role of executive director.
The CCC has only had one person, Shawn Collins, serve as the ED since the commission commenced operations in 2017. Following months of uncertainty about his future at the agency, Collins announced in mid-November that he would resign effective Dec. 4.
In mid-October, with the assumption that Collins would be out on leave until early December, commissioners unanimously approved Chief People Officer Debra Hilton-Creek to fill in as the acting executive director. She has been in the role since. According to Hilton-Creek, the timeline for the search to replace her and Collins “looks like it is going to span three to four months.”
As discussed at the CCC meeting this Thursday, starting next week, the agency will establish a search committee and “identify and engage search committee participants,” and complete their first draft of a new job description.
“It’s significantly changed,” the acting ED said. “When the commission started six years ago, the job description was really very minimal. The role of the ED has expanded vastly since then.”
Commissioners will also decide on whether to: hire an expensive outside firm to consult on the search; enlist a more affordable solo independent contractor; or handle things entirely in-house.
By the end of January, their framework has the search committee engaging with agency employees, completing the job description, and posting the ED role. Applicant reviews and interviews will follow in February and March, and they’re planning for an April decision and offer followed by a May starting date.
Members spoke about transparency—updates and “all of the documents that we use for this recruitment process will be posted on [the CCC] site”—including plans to conduct the final interviews in public. Commissioner Bruce Stebbins said the agency should be vocal about the public impugnment way ahead of time, since “that may be a decision point that a candidate has to wrestle with as to if they’re going to put themselves out there as a candidate in the final round.”
As for who and what they’re looking for, at a press availability after Thursday’s commission meeting, Acting CCC Chair Ava Callender Concepcion said she hopes for someone with the kind of experience that would enable them to handle an industry that is growing as rapidly as cannabis. She added, “This is something that everyone will have an opportunity to opine on, even though it’s ultimately a commissioner decision.”
“This is not the same place as when we hired our first executive director,” Concepcion said. “It has evolved.”