More Chaos as Massachusetts Cannabis Commission Suspends Two

The commission is also battling a lawsuit related to a previous dismissal.

Chaos continues to rain down on the Massachusetts Cannabis Commission, as nonprofit news organization WBUR reported that Acting Executive Director Debbie Hilton-Creek suspended Chief Communications Officer Cedric Sinclair and Director of Human Resources Justin Shrader on Dec. 4.

The removal of Sinclair and Shrader came after Executive Director Shawn Collins stepped down from his position. In November, Collins said, “After 6 years of working under a microscope and at a breakneck pace, the time is right for me to make that change. I do not know what the future has in store for me, but I know I am better for having had the opportunity to serve. For that, I’m eternally grateful.”

State Sen. Michael Moore called for an oversight hearing to “find out what’s going on, what’s taken place.”

“The management staff overseeing the commission, the agency, is in disarray,” he said. Moore has previously called for more scrutiny of the commission.

The Massachusetts cannabis market topped $5 billion in gross sales in August, which was on the heels of back-to-back record sales in June, July, and August.

O’Brien Fights Back

Former commission Chair Shannon O’Brien also is going to court regarding her suspension by Treasurer Deborah Goldberg.

Goldberg hired O’Brien in 2022 to oversee the commission. WBUR reported that in records made public in court, a commission investigation found O’Brien had made “racially, ethnically, culturally insensitive” comments, including using the word “yellow” about an Asian person.

Goldberg also alleged that O’Brien yelled at an executive assistant and inappropriately referred to Collins, the former executive director, as “missing in action” while he was on paternity leave.

Green Market Report reported in September that O’Brien filed a lawsuit against State Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, alleging that her recent suspension from her job as head of the state Cannabis Control Commission was illegal.

In her lawsuit, O’Brien claims she’s been targeted by false allegations that stem from “entrenched bureaucracy and infighting” at the CCC, The Boston Globe reported. O’Brien claims to have tried to reform the agency internally, and her suspension was retaliation.

Chaos Reigns

“This agency, to have lost basically all of its management team in 10-11 months, I think that signifies that there’s a problem there,” state Sen. Moore said.

WBUR reported that the reasons for the latest suspensions have not been disclosed. The news outlet reached Shrader, but he declined to comment. The position has been posted online while Sinclair’s photo remains on the website as part of the management team.

According to the website, Hilton-Creek joined the Cannabis Control Commission in August 2023 as the agency’s chief people officer. Her background is steeped in multistate employment, labor, and workforce development experiences. She has more than 20 years’ experience in organizations with 700-plus team members, and multiple union representations.

Debra Borchardt

Debra Borchardt is the Co-Founder, and Executive Editor of GMR. She has covered the cannabis industry for several years at Forbes, Seeking Alpha and TheStreet. Prior to becoming a financial journalist, Debra was a Vice President at Bear Stearns where she held a Series 7 and Registered Investment Advisor license. Debra has a Master's degree in Business Journalism from New York University.

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