In the weeks following her appointment as chair of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission (CCC), Shannon O’Brien’s personal and financial stake in a state-licensed cannabis business has come to light.
As the Boston Herald reported Sept. 28, O’Brien is listed as “owner/partner” of Greenfield Greenery in that company’s 2020 application for a cultivation license. Greenfield, a city in western Massachusetts, held a zoning board meeting in June 2021, at which O’Brien represented herself as CEO of the business.
Greenfield Greenery holds a provisional license from the state. But the decision to award Greenfield Greenery with a final license rests on an upcoming inspection of the operations, and a vote by the CCC, the very regulatory body now helmed by O’Brien.
Furthermore, O’Brien is listed as an “adviser” on Charlemont FarmWorks’ cultivation business license application. That company, too, holds a provisional license as of September 2022.
O’Brien arrives as the chair of the CCC following her tenure as former state treasurer (1999-2003), former state senator (1993-1995) and former state representative (1987-1993). She lost the 2002 gubernatorial election to Mitt Romney.
As chair of the CCC, O’Brien’s salary is listed at $181,722.
A Boston Herald columnist jumped on the headline and called for O’Brien’s ouster Sept. 29.
The CCC has not publicly commented on this news, and the commission has no shortage of important business to attend to. Earlier this summer, Gov. Charlie Baker signed a law that charged the CCC with elevating the state cannabis industry’s diversity and tightening the oversight of host community agreements. Those host community agreements form the backbone of Massachusetts’ version of the local approval process for license applicants. Greenfield Greenery filed its own host community agreement in October 2020.
"You're probably aware of this, that you're joining the commission at a pivotal time," Commissioner Ava Callender Concepcion told O'Brien earlier this month, without knowing perhaps the full ramifications of the CCC’s impending workload.
UPDATE: Following the initial publication of this story, O'Brien provided the following statement:
I am not currently the owner of any marijuana licensee and have not been an owner since December 2021. I helped Charlemont Farmworks get an HCA and a provisional license, but served only as a consultant. I was the CEO and part owner of Greenfield Greenery, also helping gain a HCA, special permit and provisional license.
In December 2021, I signed an attestation giving up all equity, ownership and control of Greenfield Greenery LLC. The company indicated they would submit my attestation with its request for change of control. It is my understanding that this request is being reviewed by the Commission staff.
When I applied to be the Chair of the Cannabis Control Commission, I disclosed these relationships.
I have spoken with the State Ethics Commission who advised I have no actual conflict of interest.
Out of an abundance of caution, to avoid even the appearance of conflict of interest, I will recuse myself from any deliberations or votes regarding Charlemont or Greenfield Greenery businesses.
I believe my involvement with Charlemont and Greenfield have provided me with insights into the cannabis industry and the regulatory process that will be invaluable to my role as Chair of the Cannabis Commission.