Cannabis Control Commission Chairwoman Suspended by Treasurer

Cannabis Control Commission (CCC) Chairwoman Shannon O’Brien has been suspended from her position by Treasurer Deborah Goldberg. The reason for the suspension and whether it will result in O’Brien’s removal from the CCC are unknown at this time. O’Brien has been placed on paid suspension, and she is prohibited from entering any CCC offices or conducting any work on behalf of the Commission. She must return all Commission property, including her laptop, cell phone, keys, ID badge, and any documents or files belonging to the Commission.

O’Brien, who served as the state treasurer from 1999 to 2003, did not attend the CCC meeting on Thursday. Commissioner Kimberly Roy took on the role of chair for that meeting. The state law governing CCC appointments allows a treasurer (as well as a governor and attorney general) to remove a commissioner if they are found guilty of malfeasance in office, neglect their duties, are unable to fulfill their responsibilities, engage in gross misconduct, or are convicted of a felony. The law requires that the commissioner be provided with a written statement of the reason for removal and an opportunity to be heard.

O’Brien’s tenure as CCC chair has been fraught with challenges. She was embroiled in controversy regarding her past ownership stake in a cultivation company that had an application before the CCC but was later cleared of any wrongdoing. Additionally, she created confusion in July when she announced that executive director Shawn Collins would be stepping down at the end of the year and that he wanted to take family leave before then. O’Brien later apologized for the confusion caused by her announcement.

Prior to her role as CCC chair, O’Brien served in the Massachusetts House and Senate and was the Democratic Party’s nominee for governor in 2002. She has also held positions in the media and nonprofit sectors and has worked with various industries through her O’Brien Advisory Group. Treasurer Goldberg appointed O’Brien to the CCC chair position in August 2022, following interim Chair Sarah Kim and inaugural Chair Steven Hoffman. As treasurer, Goldberg is responsible for appointing someone with a financial background to lead the marijuana industry regulatory body.