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Cannabis Control Commission: Lawmakers demand more oversight

Cannabis Control Commission: Lawmakers demand more oversight

Moore and four other lawmakers, including Senate Minority Leader Bruce E. Tarr, sent a letter Monday to the House and Senate chairs of the Legislature’s committee on cannabis policy, asking them to convene a hearing examining the agency.

The lawmakers said the agency has conducted “overly aggressive, unproductive, and untimely” investigations, been beset by licensing delays, and routinely leaned on closed-door sessions to mediate undisclosed issues between the five-member commission and staff.

Upheaval at the agency hit a new level on Friday, when state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg’s office confirmed the Democrat had suspended Shannon O’Brien as the state’s top cannabis regulator, removing the former treasurer and one-time Democratic nominee for governor only a year into O’Brien’s tenure as commission chair.

A spokesperson for Goldberg declined to say what prompted the decision, and O’Brien told the Globe she was not formally given a reason for her suspension. O’Brien said she had “a conversation [with Goldberg] about whether I could continue” in the role.

In their letter, the lawmakers questioned the basis for the suspension, or even how long it would last, writing that the Legislature “needs to ensure that statutory requirements are complied with.”

A commissioner can be removed from the panel under certain circumstances, including if he or she is convicted of a felony or is “guilty of malfeasance in office,” according to state law. The law also allows for removal for more amorphous reasons, such as if a commissioner commits “gross misconduct,” is “unable to discharge the powers” of the office, or “substantially neglects” duties.

Before a commissioner is removed, the law mandates he or she be provided the reason for removal in writing and be given “an opportunity to be heard.”

“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,” wrote the lawmakers, who include Senator Michael D. Brady, a Brockton Democrat, and Republican state representatives Donald R. Berthiaume and Michael J. Soter.

In his statement, Moore, the Millbury Democrat, said he also had received reports of what he called a “hostile work environment at the CCC.” His office did not describe what those allegations entailed, and Moore was not immediately available for interview. His statement said he referred the complaints to the Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination and the state Auditor’s office.

State Auditor Diana DiZoglio, a Methuen Democrat, said Monday that she intends to include the Cannabis Control Commission into her review of the use of nondisclosure agreements in settlements across state government.

“Our office is conducting a review of state entities across the commonwealth regarding potential abuse of taxpayer dollars to silence government employees about workplace abuse-related issues,” DiZoglio said. “We will be looking at the CCC as well as part of this audit.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Matt Stout can be reached at Follow him @mattpstout.

This content was originally published here.