Dairy farmers losing out in O’Brien pot licensing flap
Western Mass. couple voice frustration with cannabis commission
A MONTH AGO, the Cannabis Control Commission deferred consideration of a license for a marijuana farm that Cannabis Control Commission chair Shannon O’Brien was previously involved with, to avoid concerns about a conflict of interest.
But the farmers at the center of the high-profile dispute say they did everything regulators asked for – and the bureaucratic snafu at the regulatory agency is causing them economic hardship.
“Unfortunately, this process has been as expensive as it has been opaque,” farmers Angie and Randy Facey of Greenfield Greenery wrote in an email they sent to the Cannabis Control Commission in October, which the Faceys shared with CommonWealth. “Through the long process with the CCC, we missed the entire 2022 growing season. Yet still, we carry the operating costs of the cannabis business every month in the hopes of getting a license. To say we are struggling would be an understatement.”
O’Brien first disclosed to CommonWealth September 1, soon after her swearing-in, that she had involvement with two cannabis companies – Charlemont Farmworks and Greenfield Greenery. She said Charlemont Farmworks was not moving forward, but Greenfield Greenery was in the process of obtaining a final license. O’Brien was listed as a partner on Greenfield Greenery’s license application, but she said in September that she left her role there 10 or 11 months earlier.
O’Brien signed an attestation giving up equity in the business in December 2021. But commissioners had questions about whether the paperwork was properly filed and the transaction properly completed to remove O’Brien from company ownership. O’Brien’s name was not on a license renewal form the company submitted in February 2022, but commissioners never voted publicly on a change of ownership application. Commission staff would not say whether a change of ownership application was needed in this case.
The commission had not provided any updates since October, and a spokesperson said no new information is available.
However, the Faceys say commission staff never identified any problems. The Faceys say they notified the commission that O’Brien no longer had control over the company when they submitted their license renewal application in February. The Faceys also submitted a change of ownership form in May 2022 to add another person who had some control of the company, and it included O’Brien’s attestation that she was no longer involved. Angie Facey would not provide a copy of that form for legal reasons. But on August 12, in an email reviewed by CommonWealth, a commission licensing specialist wrote to Randy Facey that his change of ownership application “has been deemed complete by Commission staff.”
Angie Facey said since commissioners remanded the license for further investigation, they have received no inquires or requests for information.
CCC staff said at the October meeting that the Faceys’ application for a final license was complete. In fact, according to documents reviewed by CommonWealth, the commission emailed a final license certificate to the Faceys in September, only to recall it the following day. An email from a commission licensing specialist said because Greenfield Greenery was not on the agenda for September’s public meeting, “the notice and certificate were sent in error and not valid.”Angie and Randy Facey live in Leyden and operate a dairy farm there. Angie Facey said their dairy business is floundering while they are sinking money into the proposed outdoor marijuana grow business, which is located at a separate property in Greenfield. She is frustrated that she has been prevented from growing when they gave regulators everything they asked for. “It seems to us that all of a sudden there’s an issue, but we don’t know what the issue is, they don’t tell us,” Facey said. “We’re completely in the dark.”
State Sen. Jo Comerford, a Northampton Democrat, wrote to the Cannabis Control Commission on behalf of the Faceys, who live in her district, November 22. “I share the applicant’s immense frustration,” Comerford wrote. “From my vantage point, there is nothing the applicant could have done differently to avoid this unfair delay and investigation, and nothing the applicant can do now to conclude this painful episode, given that the CCC has not requested any additional information.”