Hoffman’s abrupt exit at cannabis commission remains a mystery

The Cannabis Control Commission is at an inflection point, with all five of the state’s original marijuana regulators having moved on. “Today marks a significant moment for all of us as the five inaugural commissioners have now departed the CCC,” said Commissioner Ava Concepcion at the start of a virtual public commission meeting on Thursday.

But the final piece of that shift – the departure of Chairman Steven Hoffman – remains mysterious. When each prior commissioner departed, the commission announced it with a press release and sometimes a media interview, and the departing member was honored with a public sendoff at their final meeting. 

Hoffman resigned April 25, a few months before his term ended, and his resignation only became public May 2 when Boston Globe cannabis reporter Dan Adams discovered it. Hoffman, who during his tenure was generally very accessible to the media, issued a statement to the Globe saying the commission reached “a natural inflection point when the time is right for a transition in leadership.”

Hoffman has not spoken since then about his decision to leave when he did. Several current commissioners said they learned of Hoffman’s resignation the day Hoffman submitted his resignation letter.

Treasurer Deborah Goldberg appointed deputy treasurer Sarah Kim, who helped with early implementation of the marijuana law, as interim chair while she seeks a new permanent chair. Kim is not seeking the job permanently.

Speaking to reporters after Thursday’s meeting, none of the commissioners would provide any insight on Hoffman’s departure. “He’s in the best position to talk about his departure,” Kim said.

Concepcion said it was “not completely surprising” since Hoffman had been up front about nearing the end of his tenure.

“It was his decision, I really don’t want to speculate as to why he made it,” said Commissioner Bruce Stebbins. Stebbins said the delay in announcing Hoffman’s departure publicly let the commissioners talk to staff and alert the Cannabis Advisory Board. “I think it was the appropriate protocol,” he said.

“I think that every commissioner has left in their own way at their own time,” said Commissioner Nurys Camargo. “I wish him the best. I’m sure it was hard for him, but we all deserve our lives.”

In public opening statements, each commissioner thanked Hoffman and the other inaugural members for laying the groundwork for the state’s legal cannabis industry, while acknowledging that this is a clear transition point. The first commissioners built an agency and industry from the ground up. Now, retail shops are up and running. The new commissioners have other challenges: improving participation of Black and Latino entrepreneurs, developing the nascent delivery industry, and authorizing social consumption facilities, like marijuana cafes. They have developed a new strategy for legislative engagement, becoming more vocal in lobbying. They will engage in another regulatory review in 2023.

“At the beginning, it seemed that the commission was really focused on creating the commission and creating this legal industry,” Concepcion said. “Now we can reflect on the work that was done, figure out what worked, figure out what needs tweaking.”

Camargo said she intends to “stick to tradition” in continuing the work of the inaugural commission. She said it’s too early to know how this commission will be different from the first one. “Time will tell,” she said. 




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