Cannabis Agency Is In 'Crisis' Says MA Governor Declining Comment On Possible Receivership, As Acting Chair Fights Back

Zinger Key Points
  • Last week the state inspector general, called the state legislature to correct the poor governance structure of the CCC.
  • ‘I certainly appreciate that it seems to be in a state of real concern, crisis right now. And a change is in order,’ said the Governor.
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The Massachusetts Office of the Inspector General, Jeffrey S. Shapiro, sent a letter to the state legislature calling for the correction of the poor governance structure of the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC).

"The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conducted a limited review of the CCC's structure and determined the agency's statute lacks a clear leadership hierarchy with defined duties and responsibilities," reads the letter. "For the past two years, CCC's staff, including its commissioners, have spent considerable time and money seeking to clarify roles and responsibilities. As of the date of this letter, it does not appear the CCC, on its own, is any closer to resolving these issues."

The letter addressed to state Senate President Karen Spilka, House Speaker Ron Mariano and others, also states that "there is an urgent need for the legislative leadership to take immediate action to statutorily authorize the appointment of, and appoint, a receiver with clearly delineated authority to manage the day-to-day operations."

Shapiro slammed the CCC saying is not operating properly for a state agency, "let alone one that was responsible for bringing in approximately $322 million in tax and non-tax revenue in Fiscal Year 2023."

Who Holds Authority?

Among the main concerns, the Inspector General highlighted the commissioner’s disagreement on who holds the authority to appoint the chairperson after the state treasurer Deborah Goldberg suspended Chair Shannon O'Brien last year.

See Also: Alleged Racist Remarks Cited As Reasons Massachusetts Cannabis Chair Was Suspended, Court Filing Reveals

O'Brien appointed Kimberly Roy, and the commissioners appointed Ava Callender Concepcion. Then, at the recent CCC meeting, the commissioners voted to relieve the acting interim executive director. This left CCC without an appointed and clear leader.

The CCC spent more than $160,000 on mediation services to draft a charter outlining its governing structure, but as of the date of the letter, the commissioners have not approved the new charter.

As of the date of this letter, the commissioners have yet to approve the new charter,

"For two years, the Commission has spent considerable time and money with a consultant drafting a governance charter to clarify roles and responsibilities," the letter reads. "They are no closer to resolving these issues as I write this, therefore, immediate action must be taken to prevent further waste and uncertainty."

Governor Agrees Something Has To Be Done

Commenting on the letter, Gov. Maura Healey (D) said Monday that the CCC needs to move in a "different direction," but didn't comment on the possible receivership, writes Common Wealth Beacon.

"I'll be open to talking to legislative leadership, with the treasurer, with others on the best step going forward," Healey told reporters. "There needs to be a different direction here."

Asked directly about receivership, Healey responded, "I'm not taking a position on it now until I've had an opportunity to talk to others about this. But I certainly appreciate that it seems to be in a state of real concern, and crisis right now. And a change is in order. What that looks like, I'm not sure."

On the claim that the agency's governing law is flawed, Heale said, "I think what's problematic right now is the operation. I just looked at it right now, it's not working. I mean, that's been clear."

Treasurer Goldberg also agreed that there are "many areas of concern" at the CCC. "Although my office's purview is limited to appointing one commissioner and jointly appointing two others, we recognize the need to address those concerns," she stated. "The CCC has a very important mission. We are always available to our partners in the legislature, the Governor, and the Attorney General to assist in any way we can."

CCC Acting Chair Fights Back

CCC acting chair Concepcion defended the agency's action in a letter published on Commons Wealth Beacon. Concepcion said that the CCC has "effectively regulating" hundreds of cannabis licensees, hundreds of applicants looking to obtain a license, and more than 15,000 industry employees.

Over the last couple of months, the agency has published tools to assist host communities with implementing local equity policies, extended a secret shopper program, and more recently issued an administrative order permitting the first-ever maritime transport of state-legal cannabis to address the pressing cannabis crisis at Martha's Vineyard.

"What is urgent, is filling 22 vacancies (in an agency now staffed at 134), including the Executive Director's position, and addressing concerning personnel issues that have been widely aired in news reports," she pointed out.

Photo: Benzinga edit with images by RDNE Stock project via Pexels and Wikimedia Commons  

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Posted In: CannabisNewsMassachusetts CannabisMassachusetts CCCMaura HealeyShannon O’Brien
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