Cannabis Control Commission Names New Acting Executive Director

Pictured: Chief People Officer Debra Hilton-Creek will serve as interim CCC executive director until Shawn Collins returns

“A collaborative effort will get us through these next few months.”

For a relatively new agency that is tasked with something as exciting as licensing cannabis companies and eventually social consumption venues, a surprising amount of attention has been paid to hiring and human resources at the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission.

A lot of recent noise stemmed from a series of mid-summer blowups in which commission meetings unwound into excruciating bickering sessions, leaving the public and stakeholders wondering who is in charge. At one point, CCC Chair Shannon O’Brien announced that Exec. Director Shawn Collins planned on leaving his role, only for Collins to return to work soon after, say that isn’t true, and then disappear from public view due to a planned paternal leave. Throwing gas on that fire, last month state Treasurer Deb Goldberg suspended Chair O’Brien, setting off a firestorm of legal actions and public letters between state lawmakers, the agency, and others.

At their meeting on Monday, Oct. 16, Acting CCC Chair Ava Callender Concepcion said members were interested in “what may be the best step forward for us as an agency.” Her comments came in light of “recent changes to key staff positions”; in addition to their shakeup with the chair and executive director spots, Concepcion noted their “COO and CFAO have recently moved on and this resulted in some major changes to the delegations initially laid out by our executive director.”

With Collins out on leave until early December, the acting chair nominated (and her colleagues unanimously approved) Chief People Officer Debra Hilton-Creek to temporarily fill his position. Though Hilton-Creek is relatively new at the agency, Concepcion noted her experience as a military veteran and “human resources practitioner with over 25 years of management and organizational leadership experience.” The acting chair also said Hilton-Creek is “up to speed on [CCC] policies and procedures,” and “brings a fresh lens” to address the “people,” culture,” and “best practices” in play.

“We have had some key departures,” Commissioner Bruce Stebbins said. “This is someone to help us continue to operate day to day.”

“We have an incredible team,” Acting Chair Concepcion said. “A collaborative effort will get us through these next few months. I look forward to meeting all of the goals that this interim role will put in front of me.”

At a media availability after Monday’s meeting, Commissioner Nurys Camargo said any member of their leadership team is capable of competently handling the interim director role, but said they “were taking the consensus approach.” Asked why they waited until now to put someone in Collins’ position, she said it has become clear that they can benefit from having a “one-stop shop” or “point person” through the next month-and-a-half, while Concepcion added that Hilton-Creek will be especially useful as annual budget discussions approach.

“We need someone who understands that process,” the acting chair said. A subsequent discussion about Concepcion’s interim chair appointment will take place at the CCC’s next planned meeting on Nov. 9.