MA CCC Interim Chair Sarah Kim during the Commission’s June 23, 2020 meeting. Credit: Mass. CCC

Last April, just before the last chairman resigned, the Massachusetts’ Cannabis Control Commission decided to update its governance structure ahead of the agency’s fifth anniversary. Last week the first step of that update began, as the Commission kicked off a closed-to-the-public mediation process following its June 23 open meeting, which lasted a mere three-and-a-half minutes. 

“The Cannabis Control Commission has continued to evolve and grow since its inception nearly five years ago,” said a Commission spokesperson in a statement emailed to Grown In. “At this point in the agency’s maturity, the Commission is reviewing its governance structure to solidify and refine agency processes and procedures that will outlast the individuals who have been instrumental in getting the organization off the ground and building upon its foundation.”

The spokesperson declined to comment further, given the protective nature of a closed mediation session.

The vote to enter into mediation took place during  Commission chair Steve Hoffman’s final meeting as the head of the appointed body back in April. A little more than two weeks later, Hoffman resigned from the commission.

“The Commission now consists of recently appointed members, and it is appropriate that they pursue their own vision and take on the next generation of challenges,” wrote Hoffman in a statement following his resignation. “While I will be leaving my role, I will always root for the work of this Commission.”

During the April 7 meeting where the Commission voted to enter mediation at a later date, Hoffman noted that routine updates to the Commission should be expected, given the experimental nature of regulating legal cannabis.

“We’re flying a plane while we’re building it,” he said.

Voters in Massachusetts legalized adult use cannabis in November, 2016. Following a few months of legislative work, the state formally approved the guidelines for its new adult use market during the summer of 2017, including sitting the first members of the Cannabis Control Commission in August, 2017.

Since then, the market has grown to include hundreds of operators, from cultivators to manufacturers and retailers.

“We are no longer a start up, we’re now maturing,” said Hoffman. “We’ve done well. We’ve managed to keep this plane up in the air while we’re building it. We’ve built a strong set of regulations. We have a thriving industry that we’ve built up and we’ve built a remarkable agency with an extraordinary group of people in it.”

Hoffman also explained that as the agency has grown along with the market it regulates, that certain functions have implicitly been relegated to the commission’s Executive Director in terms of decision making or recommendations.

“There is no burning bridge here. There are no blowups,” said Hoffman. “It’s time to make what is implicit, explicit in terms of governance, in terms of shared responsibility between the Commission and the staff as led by the executive director. It’s just good practice.”

Commissioner Ava Concepcion supported the April vote to enter mediation.

“At this point in the Commission’s maturity, it’s only logical that we evaluate our governance structure to both solidify and refine the agency,” she said. “My hope is that the Commission revisits this process again at the 10 year mark, and the 15 year mark, and so on.”

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Zack cut his journalistic teeth covering high school sports in the south before spending a decade covering local government, politics and the courts in the Boston, Massachusetts area. He's previously written...