Massachusetts’ Top Pot Official Zig Zags Through Ethics Debate
Fall River's former Mayor Jasiel F. Correia II is doing time in the federal pokey, partly because he tried to pull an end-run around Massachusetts cannabis licensing laws.
As a result, one might think the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission would want to avoid even the slightest hint of controversy.
More than five years after being established by an act of the voters, the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission has a new chair, and her appointment is controversial.
Commonwealth Magazine was among the media outlets to report the appointment of former Massachusetts State Treasurer Shannon O'Brien as Chair of the Massachusetts Cannabis Commission in August.
Democrat Treasurer Deb Goldberg appointed O'Brien, another Democrat, to the chair at an annual salary of more than $181,000.
O'Brien has a long history in Massachusetts, having served in the House of Representatives and Massachusetts Senate, and as State Treasurer. O'Brien was also her party's nominee for governor in 2002, losing to Republican Mitt Romney.
Former President Bill Clinton campaigned in New Bedford on O'Brien's behalf.
Some argue O'Brien is connected and the consummate insider.
O'Brien's connection to the industry she will help to regulate as chair of the Massachusetts Cannabis Commission has raised concerns.
The Boston Herald reported that O'Brien "has been involved in two applications for cannabis cultivation."
"O'Brien is listed on an application filed in 2020 by Greenfield Greenery LLC, as an 'Owner/Partner' in a proposal to open an outdoor growing operation occupying upwards to 100,000 square feet," the Herald reported.
"A second application, by Charlemont FarmWorks LLC, lists O'Brien under a section titled 'Our Team' as an advisor," it reported.
Appearing Sunday on WCVB Channel 5 in Boston, O'Brien said, "I disclosed all of this to the treasurer, I talked to the folks at ethics because I have no ownership or control, I have no conflict."
"Out of an abundance of caution, anything to do with any group that I've worked with, I will recuse myself in the future," she said.
O'Brien said she has "separated" from the Greenfield business.
"I signed an agreement giving up all equity, ownership, and control," she said.