Lawmakers want independent look at Cannabis Control Commission

BOSTON — Warning that action is “desperately needed” to address upheaval at the Cannabis Control Commission, the Senate’s top Republican and several other lawmakers urged their colleagues Monday to subject the state’s marijuana regulatory agency to new scrutiny.

A quintet of legislators said they believe the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy should open its own oversight hearing to examine publicly reported problems at the CCC or advance legislation that would stand up an independent internal audit unit within the agency.

Their request comes four days after Treasurer Deborah Goldberg suspended CCC Chair Shannon O’Brien for undisclosed reasons. The lawmakers asked their colleagues to investigate why O’Brien is suspended, who is executing the chair’s duties in her stead, and what legislative changes might improve the situation.

In their nine-page letter, the legislators also described concerns over “ongoing governance issues” at the CCC, licensing delays, the agency’s inadvertent public release of personnel records earlier this year, an alleged “retaliation against an independent journalist,” and a proposed policy that would allow people required to register as sex offenders to serve as retail or delivery operator agents in the marijuana industry.

“As we all know, the Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) is not performing as it should,” the authors -- Democrat Sens. Michael Moore and Michael Brady, Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr, and Republican Reps. Donald Berthiaume and Michael Soter -- wrote. “Our constituents, media reports, and even the actions and words of the CCC itself have repeatedly made clear that action is desperately needed to bring oversight, transparency, and accountability to the CCC.”

The lawmakers said the Cannabis Policy Commission has authority under legislative rules to open an oversight hearing about the CCC. Another option, they said, would be for the Legislature to “delegate its oversight responsibilities” via legislation filed by Moore and Berthiaume (S 58) that would create a new internal audit unit at the CCC, similar to audit units in place at MassDOT, the Executive Office of Health and Human Services and Massachusetts State Police.

“The bill received its hearing on July 18, 2023, and the legislature’s action at this time is appropriate and needed to protect the expenditure of public funds, ensure a functioning regulatory scheme and bring public accountability, transparency and oversight to an agency that is clearly not functioning properly,” lawmakers wrote.

Sen. Moore received reports alleging a hostile work environment at the Cannabis Control Commission over the weekend, a spokesperson for Sen. Moore told Boston 25 Investigative Reporter Kerry Kavanaugh. The spokesperson said Monday that the office referred those allegations to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and the State Auditor.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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