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Top Massachusetts Cannabis Regulator Suspended From Post

The latest in the Cannabis Control Commission’s ongoing human resources saga

There has been no shortage of fireworks around the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission over the past few months. From commissioner infighting to licensees and town administrators battling it out over Host Community Agreements, it’s one of the most entertaining reality shows going, to paraphrase one business owner.

But sometimes when it comes to the CCC, the most eyebrow-raising situations don’t unfold in public view. At the start of their monthly meeting this Thursday, the body’s chairperson, Shannon O’Brien, was not present. And today, the Boston Globe reported that she had been suspended from her position by state Treasurer Deb Goldberg, who appoints the top regulator.

The treasurer isn’t saying much more, since it is a personnel matter. Other commissioners have also been tight-lipped; at a virtual press availability following yesterday’s meeting, during which members disappeared into an executive session closed from the press and public, Commissioner Kimberly Roy said she would not speculate on any innuendo.

As for the speculation that the rest of us will do in the absence of answers, much of it will probably be based on two significant developments since O’Brien was appointed to her post last year. The first is her ties to a Greenfield cultivation; the chair was listed as an owner in the company’s licensing application, forcing the commission to investigate the matter. O’Brien emerged technically clean, but as far as many stakeholders were concerned, the stink stuck. 

Second, at a public meeting in July, O’Brien strangely dropped a bombshell regarding CCC Exec. Director Shawn Collins planning to leave his post. The ensuing fallout has been kafkaesque, with the chair apologizing, Collins not really leaving, and few if any people actually knowing what the hell is going on.

According to state law, a commissioner may be removed if they are: “guilty of malfeasance in office,” “substantially neglects their duties,” “is unable to discharge the powers and duties of the office,” “commits gross misconduct,” or is “convicted of a felony.”

Human resources issues have seemingly plagued the commission, along with other problems. On Wednesday, the CCC even issued an unusual statement condemning the reporting of one specific blogger, Grant Smith-Ellis. He had been reporting about personnel issues at the agency.