“My experiences leading an organization to protect consumers … have led me to see Chair Shannon O’Brien as a needed reformer at the Cannabis Control Commission.”
There have been a lot of letters going back and forth in the wild world of Massachusetts weed, like the one that state lawmakers released in September about “dysfunction” at the Cannabis Control Commission.
There’s also been all sorts of noise on the lab testing front, with more and more researchers and scientists speaking out despite possible pushback from regulators and loss of business. Among other gripes, Dr. Christopher Hudalla, the president of ProVerde Labs in Milford, told a roomful of peers at the Cannabis Science Conference in Rhode Island last month that “one of the challenges that we face in Massachusetts is that the data we collect is reported into the Metrc seed-to-sale tracking software, and the data is secure, there’s no visibility. … Researchers can’t see that data, and often regulators aren’t looking at that data for trends or anomalies or problems.”
This has all been happening concurrently with and appears to be linked to chaos in the CCC’s human resources department. Along with other power struggles and squabbles in the background, for the past two weeks all eyes have been on the employment situation of CCC Chair Shannon O’Brien. In mid-September, the appointing state Treasurer Deb Goldberg suspended O’Brien from her post. In the time since, more revelations have surfaced about Goldberg’s reasoning behind the drastic action, while the ousted chair filed a lawsuit last week that puts various other potential improprieties on front street.
This week, Jeff Rawson, Ph.D., president of the Institute of Cannabis Science in Cambridge, sent his own letter to Goldberg, expressing his “concerns regarding the suspension” of O’Brien. “My experiences leading an organization to protect consumers of cannabis have led me to see Chair O’Brien as a needed reformer at the CCC, and I believe she is the subject of retaliation in response to performing her duty,” he wrote.
Rawson continued, “As a scientific nonprofit based in MA, the Institute of Cannabis Science has recently discussed with Chair O’Brien problems with scientific regulation of cannabis testing in the state, including how some of the staff at CCC are compromised by conflicts of interest and how misinformation is rife in the adult-use cannabis market of MA. O’Brien expressed concern about the efficacy of testing regulations in MA, and about building a state lab that would require years of work, the hiring of highly qualified staff, and millions of dollars to bring online.
“Chair O’Brien was one of the most receptive and understanding of the public officials we’ve encountered as we seek to reform cannabis testing, which is why her unexplained suspension concerns us. To illustrate problems at the CCC that could bring the Chair into conflict with internal staff, we will now discuss some of the findings the Institute of Cannabis Science has uncovered during our work with off-the-shelf testing.”
Rawson went on to note how those tests turned out, and identified potential conflicts of interest in the CCC’s lab testing enforcement apparatus. You can read his whole letter here on LinkedIn.
“We have previously shared concerns about transparency and scientific judgment within the CCC staff in written and oral testimony to the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy of the Massachusetts Legislature,” Rawson wrote in the letter. “The many complaints of conflicted judgements, retaliations, and anti transparency by CCC staff certainly support the narrative Chair O’Brien has established with her lawsuit. She should be given a fair hearing, or reinstated without delay to continue reforming this troubled agency.”