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October 6, 2023

Treasurer agrees to Nov. 7 hearing over suspension of cannabis chair

A woman wearing glasses, smiling Photo | Courtesy of Shannon O'Brien Shannon O'Brien, chair of the Cannabis Control Commission until her suspension in Sept.

A hearing that had been scheduled for Friday on the preliminary injunction that Cannabis Control Commission Chairwoman Shannon O'Brien is seeking to stop Treasurer Deborah Goldberg "from continuing her unlawful removal of Chair O'Brien from her position" has been canceled.

Instead, according to O'Brien's lawyer, Goldberg has agreed to hold a hearing on O'Brien's removal on Nov. 7 and O'Brien is "voluntarily continuing tomorrow's court hearing as a result of Goldberg's willingness to meet."

A key part of O'Brien's lawsuit against Goldberg is the fact that the chairwoman was not granted an opportunity to be heard publicly before being removed, as required under the state law that dictates how appointments to and removals from the CCC are made.

"I filed my lawsuit in order to force Treasurer Goldberg to follow the law and give me an opportunity to be heard. She notified my legal counsel yesterday that we will have a hearing in early November," O'Brien said in a statement from her lawyer's office Thursday afternoon.

Goldberg, who appointed O'Brien to chair the CCC a year ago, suspended her without publicly offering a reason on Sept. 15. Hours before O'Brien filed her lawsuit last Thursday, Goldberg issued a statement saying she moved to suspend O'Brien based on "[s]everal serious allegations" that were made by an unnamed commissioner and CCC staff about O'Brien's behavior.

O'Brien's lawsuit charges that "Treasurer Goldberg removed Chair O'Brien without notice, without articulated reason, and without any opportunity to be heard, all of which is required by the clear and unambiguous provisions of Massachusetts law ... as well as basic norms of due process." It argues that O'Brien has suffered professional and personal harms as a result.

"When I was appointed by Treasurer Goldberg, she gave me a clear mandate to fix the very real and long-standing problems at the Commission," O'Brien said in Thursday's statement. "I am very much looking forward to having the opportunity to explain in detail to the Treasurer and the Public the significant issues facing the Cannabis Control Commission, what I encountered when I tried to fix them, and explaining why  I should immediately resume my duties at the Commission as Chair."

The CCC is meanwhile plugging away at implementing a newly-approved set of cannabis consumer and industry regulations with Commissioner Ava Callender Concepcion serving as acting chair. During an appearance Thursday on WBUR's "Radio Boston," Concepcion said she does not know whether O'Brien will return to the CCC.

"And I mean that in the most honest way, shape or form possible. That's something that's separate and outside of my jurisdiction and authority as a commissioner," she said. "So that's completely up to the court at this point, and the appointing authority."

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