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The Latest In The Saga Of Suspended CCC Chair Shannon O’Brien

Ousted chair’s attorney argues that state treasurer’s case is mostly based on anonymous allegations

Though it was months ago that sensational news about Shannon O’Brien was seemingly surfacing every week, it’s only now that the ousted chair of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission is finally facing her professional fate in an unusual private deliberation.

State Treasurer Deb Goldberg, who appointed O’Brien to chair the CCC in 2022, suspended O’Brien last September, setting off a firestorm of frustration, speculation, and headlines beyond the usual weed sites.

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].”

And then came the planned meetings, as well as negotiations about what the conferences should look like. 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 in November, but that session—as well as a subsequently scheduled one in December—were postponed.

Both parties finally agreed to, or were made to proceed with, closed-door disciplinary hearings that began last week. That format is to the disliking of O’Brien’s team, which already thinks there’s too much secrecy afoot; her attorney Max Stern told WBUR that the treasurer is relying heavily on reports based on anonymous allegations made against the embattled commissioner.

“We have no idea who they are. She refused to answer who they are,” Stern said, adding that Goldberg is “refusing to testify or be cross-examined.” He continued, “She refused to answer even what their job titles are. It’s impossible to defend against that sort of thing.”

Following two hearings last week, the treasurer’s office announced that a third day of proceedings will take place at the end of this month.

The plight of O’Brien as CCC head is no longer the main event in Mass cannabis, with commissioner Ava Callender Concepcion serving as acting chair since last year. Nevertheless, the initial impact shook some bedrock under the commission, with allegations, mini scandals, and questions surfacing in the immediate rubble that are still swirling today.

Hopefully, through public information requests and potentially some parties that are unhappy with the results of the treasurer’s inquiry, we’ll all learn more about what really happened soon.