Inspector general who called Cannabis Control Commission ‘rudderless agency' to testify

Jeffrey Shapiro, Massachusetts' inspector general joins @Issue days before his testimony to state lawmakers about problems his office found at the agency overseeing the state's marijuana industry

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Massachusetts Inspector General Jeffrey Shapiro will testify before state lawmakers Tuesday to discuss the problems he said his office found at the Cannabis Control Commission.

Last month, in a letter to legislative leaders, Shapiro called for a receiver to be appointed to manage daily operations at the CCC, which he called a "rudderless agency."



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Shaprio detailed his concerns on NBC10 Boston's @Issue.

"The day-to-day operations need to be controlled, and there needs to be clarity as to who's the operation," Shapiro told Cory Smith.

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The commission's chair, Shannon O'Brien, was suspended last year after allegations she made insensitive racial remarks and mistreated an employee. O'Brien has denied any wrongdoing.

The acting chair, Ava Callender Concepcion, has led the agency since last September.

Last month, the CCC voted to strip its acting executive director of her oversight role. The commission's original executive director, Shawn Collins, resigned in December.

Shapiro told @Issue that the leadership changes are problematic for all who work at the CCC.

"If I'm an employee that works there, it's very unclear to me to whom I report. And with this lack of clarity, in my opinion, it's the dream of any sixth-grader that doesn't like what's going on at home. And they ask another parent or another adult in their life," Shapiro said.

State Sen. Michael Moore, a Democrat in the Worcester area, has called for more state oversight of the CCC for nearly two years. He told @Issue that he wants an overhaul of the commission.

"I think in every aspect of the commission, we've got issues. From operational control of it, to the day to day. Treatment of staff, treatment of retailers or the people who are investing in this industry," Moore said. "I think we need an overhaul of the agency, the operations."

In his letter to lawmakers, Shapiro wrote that there's a need for a receiver to oversee the CCC because "for the past two years, CCC's staff, including its commissioners, have spent considerable time and money seeking to clarify roles and responsibilities … it does not appear the CCC, on its own, is any closer to resolving these issues."

Ava Concepcion, the acting chair of the Cannabis Control Commission, talked about the Biden Administration’s recent reclassification of marijuana, the CCC’s social equity problem and the controversy surrounding the commission’s suspended chairwoman, Shannon O’Brien.

Concepcion, the commission's acting chair, responded, saying the CCC has been working toward addressing concerns the report raised.

"The Cannabis Control Commission is already in the process of addressing the Inspector General's chief concern relative to producing a charter that would help us clarify governance questions in statute," she said in a statement. "In my view, the agency's $160,000 investment into the creation of that charter – a standard tool used by other state agencies – over multiple fiscal years, compared to our nearly $20 million FY24 budget and the $2.48 million we returned in unspent funds at the end of FY23, is anything but waste, fraud, and abuse. As my fellow Commissioners and I have discussed publicly, we intend to have a public conversation about the outcomes of that work very soon."

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