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July 3, 2024

Inspector general to testify before cannabis-focused House committee

A look at the Massachusetts State House on a sunny day, it's golden dome gleaming in the sunlight. Courtesy | Flickr/Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism The Massachusetts State House

Lawmakers want Inspector General Jeffrey Shapiro to join them next week for an informational hearing on the myriad problems he says his office identified at the Cannabis Control Commission.

Shapiro last month pleaded with top lawmakers to intervene at the CCC by appointing a receiver to manage the day-to-day operations of the "rudderless agency" and then restructure it by amending the "unclear and self-contradictory" enabling statute that legislators wrote in 2017. The CCC has gotten a lot of attention for its foibles over the last year and less attention for the significant policies its implemented during that time, and its leadership pushed back against Shapiro's assessment.

Rep. Daniel Donahue, House chairman of the Cannabis Policy Committee, sent a letter Tuesday inviting Shapiro to a hearing on Tuesday, July 9 at 11 a.m. to discuss his letter and his review of the CCC. Donahue said the committee "will refrain from discussing any ongoing personnel or legal matters."

"I believe this hearing would be a valuable opportunity to better understand how your investigation was conducted, what findings it produced, and the basis for the recommendations it provided to the legislature," the chairman wrote. "We are particularly interested in the difficulties the CCC has experienced with its organizational structure, clarity around the enabling statute and the implementation of day-to-day operations."

Shapiro's office said he plans to participate in the hearing and also will discuss his review of the CCC as a guest on NBC10's "@Issue" show this Sunday.

The inspector general last month said his office conducted a "limited" review of the CCC's structure and "determined the agency’s statute lacks a clear leadership hierarchy with defined duties and responsibilities." He said the problem is that there is no clear indication in the CCC's governing statute of who is responsible for running its day-to-day operations.

Shapiro said his office determined that the Legislature's rewrite of the 2016 ballot law has led to confusion that "has contributed significantly to the current situation at the CCC."

CCC Acting Chair Ava Callender Concepcion sent her own letter to lawmakers to respond to Shapiro's suggestions, telling legislators that while the "challenges at the Commission are far from secret," following the inspector general's recommendation "is ill-advised."

Concepcion added, "I have significant concerns with both the process the OIG has engaged in, and the substance of the directive itself. In sum, it appears the OIG, whose website states its purpose 'promotes transparency,' instead is advocating for greater government secrecy and concentration of power at the Commission. I disagree with that approach."

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