BOSTON (SHNS) – Cannabis Control Commission Chair Shannon O’Brien found her eggs a little hard to swallow last week when she found herself splashed across the front page of the Boston Herald for her former ties to the industry she’s now in charge of regulating.
O’Brien, the former state treasurer and 2002 Democratic nominee for governor, told WCVB’s Ed Harding and Janet Wu Sunday that it still “doesn’t make breakfast go down very well for me or my family.” But O’Brien insisted she took the necessary steps to untangle herself from the marijuana business she owned before being named by Treasurer Deb Goldberg as the new chair of the CCC. “The fact is, I haven’t been an owner of a licensee since December of 2021,” she said.
O’Brien said she consulted with some cannabis applicants on their host community agreements and provisional license applications, but signed an attestation giving up all equity and ownership control in Greenfield Greenery, LLC last December, when she also disclosed the relationship to Goldberg and spoke to the Ethics Commission. She said she hasn’t talked with Greenfield Greenery since then and doesn’t know why the paperwork for the change in ownership wasn’t filed by the company in a more timely manner with the CCC for approval. She also said there may have been a “little bit of a miscommunication” between the CCC’s communications team and the Herald.
“I have no conflict, but out of an abundance of caution anything to do with any group that I’ve worked with I will recuse myself in the future,” O’Brien said.
The new pot chief also said she’s hopeful a new grant program authorized by the Legislature through the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development will help address equity issues within the newish cannabis industry, helping small entrepreneurs and minority applicants gather the capital necessary to start businesses. She said she believes the inability of people to get loans through many traditional banks because of the federal prohibition has made it harder to achieve the state’s equity goals.
As the first woman elected treasurer and the second woman elected to statewide office in Massachusetts, O’Brien also discussed the possibility that five of the six constitutional offices next year could be held by women. “I don’t think it’s gone but we’ve made a lot of progress,” she said about the so-called “glass ceiling” in politics for women candidates. As for the man who denied her the chance to become the first woman governor, O’Brien called Mitt Romney an “incredibly smart guy” who she respected for his vote to impeach former President Donald Trump. But she said she thought Romney, who she described a “pro-choice pro health care” in Massachusetts, could do more to stand up to his party on the national level. “I wish he’d have a little bit more political courage on a broader range of issues,” O’Brien said.