CCC Chair abruptly suspended, raising questions in cannabis oversight
Massachusetts State Treasurer Deb Goldberg suspended Shannon O’Brien from her role as Chair of the Cannabis Control Commission on Thursday September 14th. O’Brien was ordered to immediately return all Commission property and cease any work on behalf of the agency. In response, O’Brien has engaged high-stakes lawyers Max Stern and Howard Cooper, according to a post on X from Frank Phillips, State House Bureau Chief for the Boston Globe, raising questions about the potential for a wrongful termination case. In a statement provided to the Boston Business Journal, O’Brien stated that she was initially tapped by Goldberg to make, “significant improvements” to an agency that she says is characterized by, “internal discord, lack of accountability, and infighting.”
Amid the confusion, a group of lawmakers has sent a letter to the Massachusetts Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy, questioning the legality of O’Brien’s suspension and pushing for independent oversight of the Commission. According to state law, a Commissioner can only be removed for one of five specific reasons. The lawmakers are demanding an explanation of the suspension as well as clarification on which, if any, of these grounds Goldberg is invoking. O’Brien has also expressed doubts about the legality of her suspension and maintains that she was fulfilling her duties in accordance with the law. Her suspension comes at a challenging time for the Commission; Executive Director Shawn Collins is currently on parental leave, and the body faces a November 9th deadline to promulgate regulations to implement the omnibus cannabis law passed by the legislature last summer.