The Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission’s first and only executive director is supposedly planning to leave the agency, which is in the midst of implementing the state’s new cannabis equity law, enacted in August 2022. This law includes new regulations concerning licensed “marijuana social consumption establishments,” which are more commonly known as cannabis cafés.

Commission Chair Shannon O’Brien reportedly told her colleagues in a surprise announcement during an otherwise unrelated discussion at the commission’s regular meeting on July 28, that Executive Director Shawn Collins told her he intended to take a 10-week family leave, commencing on July 31, and to leave the agency before the end of the year. The commission was created by the passage of a 2016 ballot initiative that legalized the commercial sale of marijuana in Massachusetts. Collins assumed the agency’s helm in 2017 and has held the position ever since.

Collins’s impending departure comes as the commission is hiring and onboarding new legal staff, including a general counsel and deputy general counsel, and is about to promulgate new regulations for the operation of cannabis cafés, which are explicitly authorized by the cannabis equity law. Indeed, during their May 22 meeting, commissioners voted to rescind their existing Social Consumption Pilot Program regulations — which would have capped the number of municipalities that could serve as a host community for social consumption establishments at 12 — in favor of launching a new and ongoing regulatory review and drafting process under the cannabis equity law, which contains no such cap.

Why It Matters

The commission’s licensing and regulation of cannabis cafés in Massachusetts will be a closely watched process that could influence rulemaking in states across the U.S., which have legalized the commercial sale and adult use of marijuana.

Our Cannabis Practice provides advice on issues related to applicable federal and state law. Marijuana remains an illegal controlled substance under federal law.