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Bills propose audit of Cannabis Control Commission

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(The Center Square) – Legislators sitting on the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy on Tuesday heard testimony supporting bills proposing audits of the Cannabis Control Commission.

The process was interrupted twice by fire alarms at the State House.

Amid an hour-long hearing intermittently broken up when the first fire alarm sounded shortly before 11 a.m., the legislative panel heard from speakers who supported House Bill 106 and companion legislation Senate Bill 58.

The bills propose installing an internal special audit unit that the state’s inspector general would appoint and oversee for a 4-year term.

As proposed within the legislation, the auditor would be tasked with monitoring the commission’s operations’ quality, efficiency, and integrity.

Several speakers testifying on Tuesday said they believed heightened scrutiny of the Cannabis Control Commission’s activities would be beneficial.

“I think we need an investigation that is performed by reliable people,” chemist Jeff Rawson said as he shared concerns about current activities related to cannabis regulatory oversight in Massachusetts.

Matt Dunkum shared with the committee a personal story as a worker within the cannabis industry and said he was an ardent supporter of the bills.

Previously, Dunkum said he worked for what turned out to be an illegal cannabis growing operation in a basement. He indicated he ultimately reported the activity to the CCC but was not satisfied with the entity’s communication with him.

“It should not be easier to be a criminal than it should to be a whistleblower,” Dunkum said.

Dunkum said he believes the commission is essential but suggested increasing the entity’s budget to fund whistleblower protections and resources when illegal incidents arise.

HB 106 and SB 58 were among 11 bills the committee heard testimony at Tuesday’s hearing. Several of the other pieces of legislation pertained to growing cannabis.

Goldie Piff, a farmer and longtime advocate for cultivating Massachusetts’ cannabis industry, implored lawmakers to consider the state’s growers, who she said are being “locked out” by some current state policies.

“We need to do more to fight for the farmers of Massachusetts,” Piff said. “The farmers of Massachusetts are struggling. We need you guys to take a look at the farmers.”

The fire alarm sounded at the State House shortly before 11 a.m. and lasted about 15 minutes. Activities within the Boston complex – including the Joint Committee on Cannabis Policy’s hearing – resumed after the all-clear was given.

More than three hours later, at 2:12 p.m., the State House again was evacuated – this time for a credible reason.

An electrical fire reportedly was discovered in the facility’s basement, and the entire complex was closed for the remainder of the day while an investigation got underway.

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