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Senate to debate economic impact bill, consider Cannabis Control Commission receiver

The 2016 ballot question that legalized adult marijuana use in Massachusetts envisioned a business model where marijuana could be used in licensed cafes and lounges. Almost seven years later, Cannabis state regulators are on a fact finding mission to develop policies based on how other states are building businesses.
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Lawmakers could get their first opportunity to fulfill Inspector General Jeffrey Shapiro's recommendation for a receiver to manage the Cannabis Control Commission when the Senate debates its economic development bill, expected to emerge as soon as this week.

Sen. Michael Moore, D- Millbury, said in an interview that aired Sunday that he will file an amendment to the Senate's bill to begin to implement the measures that the government watchdog said are necessary to steady the "rudderless agency," where personnel conflicts and internal drama have overshadowed significant policy and regulatory work.

Shapiro last month urged top lawmakers to intervene at the CCC by appointing a receiver to manage the day-to-day operations and then restructure the agency by amending the "unclear and self-contradictory" enabling statute that legislators wrote in 2017.

"Other than the Chelsea Soldiers' Home, [in] my 15 years, I've never heard of a state entity request to have some state entity put in receivership. So I am surprised that it's really deteriorated this far from where we were about a year ago January," Moore said on NBC 10's "@ Issue" alongside Shapiro. He added, "I think we need an overhaul of the agency."

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."

Shapiro said during the NBC interview Sunday that he was compelled to raise the alarm to the Legislature when the CCC moved to strip many executive duties away from Acting Executive Director Debbie Hilton-Creek.

"In my opinion, based on our work, they were going in absolutely the wrong direction and I had no choice, with my responsibility under Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 12A to prevent and detect fraud, waste and abuse, to take action when the only entity that can take action is the Legislature and they were still in session," Shapiro said.

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