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By MATTHEW MEDSGER CCC says their inspections are routine and part of their work
Lawmakers meeting to hear public testimony on several bills aimed at changing the way the cannabis industry works in the Bay State instead got an earful from speakers who say pot regulators are not listening to whistleblowers and retaliating against licensees who complain.
According to testimony provided by the CEO and founder of the state’s first independent marijuana testing lab, the Cannabis Control Commission responded to his reporting what he described as serious public health concerns by launching an investigation into his business.
“The investigation was then cited by the CCC as an excuse to prevent us from engaging with commissioners regarding consumer safety. I believe CCC enforcement staff may be misusing investigations as a pretext to silence and harass licensees,” CEO Michael Kahn told the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy during a Tuesday hearing.
Kahn told lawmakers he was testifying in support of S.58 and H.106, or “An Act establishing an internal special audit unit within the Cannabis Control Commission,” which he said would prevent waste and abuse.
“I reached out to the CCC with concerns about public health on multiple occasions over the past several years. Instead of listening or taking action, CCC staff, in my opinion, retaliated by opening an investigation into our laboratory,” he said.
Kahn said that later, after he had given a presentation about lab fraud in the cannabis industry, more than half-a-dozen CCC staff arrived at his place of business.
“Eight CCC enforcement staff conducted a six hour long inspection at MCR that I believe was unfocused and unprofessional,” he said.
CCC staff later demanded “about 20,000 pages” of documents, Kahn testified, and made his business provide them approximately 30,000 hours of video feed.
“Why?” he asked commissioners. “Who is watching that?”
Kahn testified that CCC staff “verbally commanded MCR to change its policies” in such a way that they would have been in violation of state regulations, had the company complied.
Speaking at the hearing, Kahn said, seemed his only recourse despite the fact it may cause more alleged harassment.
“I believe they are likely to retaliate against me and MCR simply for speaking to this committee,” Kahn told lawmakers.
The state’s cannabis regulators are “unpredictable, arbitrary, and unaccountable,” Dan Delaney, executive director of the Association of Cannabis Testing Laboratories, told lawmakers, before saying Kahn’s experience is not unique.
“Licensees recognize the power that the CCC has and understandably fear retaliation if they contest the commission’s intent or actions,” he said. “I’ve heard it from other labs and I’ve heard it from other licensees outside the lab testing space. The real problem is structural.”
“The Cannabis Control Commission oversees the cannabis industry, but no one oversees the Cannabis Control Commission,” Delaney said.
In a response to Kahn’s accusations, a spokesperson for the CCC said the agency is proud of how they go about the business of ensuring licensees are in compliance with state laws and regulations.
“The agency currently has several ongoing enforcement matters regarding MCR Labs. Relative to this licensee’s testimony, Commission staff completed an unannounced inspection in March 2023 at another Independent Testing Lab (ITL) the week prior to the MCR Labs inspection for some of the same reasons and looking for similar records. With regards to other investigations referenced during the hearing that remain ongoing, the agency will not comment at this time,” the spokesperson told the Herald.
Inspections, the spokesperson said, even unannounced inspections, are required in order for the commission to see how any marijuana establishment is operating moment to moment.
“Investigators are not required to disclose the purpose of their investigation while on site. In fact, staff have an obligation to protect the integrity of Commission investigations to find the truth. Only then can Commissioners review and act on findings without preconceived notions or bias,” the spokesperson said.
The Herald reached out to MCR Labs to see if the company had a statement other than the testimony delivered by its CEO, but they did not respond by press time.