Cannabis Control Commissioners butt heads over acting pot chair role

Cannabis Control Commissioners butt heads over acting pot chair role

Concepcion to lead in O’Brien’s absence.

You would think the people in charge of the weed would be a little more chill.

An attempt by state pot regulators to appoint an acting chair to fill the void left by their suspended leader grew heated enough Monday morning that commissioners had to take a quick break to collect themselves after they spent half an hour arguing.

An attempt by Commissioner Kimberly Roy to run the Cannabis Control Commission’s public meeting in the absence of Chair Shannon O’Brien was stymied shortly after the group was gaveled together after one of the commission’s attorneys informed the group they had no chair and would have to appoint an acting officer to continue their discussion.

“We do and we are going to stick to the agenda. New business is the fourth item,” Roy said when Acting General Counsel Andrew Carter told the commission they had no chair.

Roy objected to Carter’s assertion, saying she, as commission secretary, is to serve as acting commission chair when O’Brien is not present.

“There are two ways for an acting chair to be designated, one is by the sitting chair, here we do not have that,” Carter said. “In previous instances, the sitting chair designated a chair. Here, that action has not occurred, so this body needs to designate an acting chair in order to run the meeting.”

“Technically,” O’Brien is still chair, Roy told the attorney.

On Thursday of last week, without explanation, Treasurer Deb Goldberg suspended O’Brien from her $181,722 post, with pay and effective immediately.

Commissioners did not speak about or disclose a reason for O’Brien’s temporary removal from the regulatory body she’s led for more than a year, but multiple regulators said the present circumstances have put the commission in a “pickle.”

While Roy is correct in saying O’Brien remains the chair of the commission, Carter said, she wasn’t present to exercise her authority or designate someone to act in her stead. Commissioners were empowered to decide who should fill her shoes, he said, and the law required them to do so.

Commissioner Bruce Stebbins, clearly inclined to get on with the business of the day, made a motion that Roy should be made the acting chair. The motion failed when Commissioners Nurys Camargo and Ava Callender Concepcion voted against it.

Camargo offered Concepcion as acting chair, citing her legal expertise and the work she has done on all of the new regulations under consideration by the commission. Roy grew indignant, saying there was precedent for her to continue to act as chair.

“You are not chair,” Carter stated plainly.

Stebbins offered to change Camargo’s original motion to make Concepcion chair to limit her term to only the current meeting and two that are already scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Roy lamented that their disagreement over who might lead the group was occurring in public, saying she would have preferred to have the argument after commissioners went through the new marijuana regulations under consideration.

Carter warned any work conducted without appointing a chair would be open to legal challenge.

Stebbins’ motion to temporarily appoint Concepcion as commission chair, albeit temporarily, was carried unanimously.

Concepcion held a press conference following the commission’s more than six-hour meeting, when she told the Herald she didn’t know more about O’Brien’s removal than the public does. She said she was concerned all of the swirling drama was distracting from the work the commission’s staff has done in recent years to update the state’s marijuana laws.

“I think it’s a really unfortunate distraction,” she said. “This is so significant; there has been so much work. We talk about the staff, because I know I’m tired and our other commissioners have been putting in a lot of hours, but the staff has been really incredible in terms of just going above and beyond.”

“I think it’s unfortunate that the conversation hasn’t been about the regulations,” she said.

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