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Deputy treasurer takes helm of Massachusetts cannabis commission amid lingering questions

Sarah Kim says she is not a candidate as search for permanent chair begins

Sarah Kim, the top deputy and attorney in the office of Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, is serving as the chair of the state Cannabis Control Commission on an interim basis.Handout/Courtesy of the office of Massachusetts Treasurer Deborah Goldberg

The agency that regulates the legal marijuana industry in Massachusetts has a new leader — but she likely won’t be staying on the job for long.

The Cannabis Control Commission on Thursday held its first meeting under its new chairwoman, Sarah Kim, the top deputy and attorney in the office of state Treasurer Deborah Goldberg, whose portfolio also includes oversight of the Alcohol Beverages Control Commission.

Goldberg appointed Kim as interim chair on Monday, two weeks after inaugural chairman Steve Hoffman abruptly resigned on April 25.

Speaking to reporters after smoothly guiding the commission through its otherwise routine meeting Thursday, Kim stressed that she would not be a candidate for the permanent job. She said she had accepted the temporary gig because she had previously helped lead Goldberg’s preparations to oversee the newly legal pot industry, before a legislative rewrite of the 2016 marijuana legalization ballot initiative expanded the agency from three to five members and made it independent by splitting the power to appoint its commissioners among Goldberg, Governor Charlie Baker, and Attorney General Maura Healey.

“[Goldberg] reached out to me knowing I had been part of the initial efforts way back when the ballot initiative was in process,” Kim said. “She wanted to make sure [Hoffman’s resignation] didn’t cause any disruption.”

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Goldberg said in a statement earlier this week that Kim “has extensive leadership experience and knowledge about the standards, goals, and operations of the commission, as well as perspective on necessary steps as we progress in the implementation of good policies in Massachusetts.”

“We are proud to appoint her as the interim chair and strongly support her efforts in this new role,” Goldberg added.

Hoffman, whose term had been set to expire in late August, did not give a specific reason for quitting, and the agency did not publicly acknowledge his departure until word leaked out a week later. On Thursday, Hoffman again declined to elaborate, while his former colleagues remained tight-lipped about the circumstances around the unexpected change.

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The delay in the announcement “gave us some time to ... talk about it with staff and inform the members of the [Cannabis] Advisory Board,” Commissioner Bruce Stebbins told reporters Thursday. “It might have been a little elongated, but I think that was the appropriate protocol.”

Under state law, Goldberg is responsible for appointing a member of the commission who comes with corporate management, finance, or securities experience and also for designating its chair. Kim told reporters Thursday she was uncertain whether her experience satisfies that legal requirement, or if any other members of the commission have such experience.

During the meeting, Kim abstained from voting on any substantive matters such as awarding and renewing marijuana business licenses, saying she hadn’t had enough time to thoroughly review the materials.

“I’m still getting to know the agency and the issues it’s grappling with,” Kim explained. “The plan and the goal for the next upcoming meetings is to definitely immerse myself more” while Goldberg’s office launches a search for a permanent chair.

A spokeswoman for Goldberg said in a statement that the treasurer “believes that Chair Kim meets the statutory qualifications to serve in this position given her extensive leadership experience and oversight of Treasury agencies and departments pertaining to corporate management, finance, and securities — including, but not limited to, the Pension Fund and Cash Management Department.”

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In the meantime, other members of the agency said they intended to move forward with the commission’s business, including extensive slates of license renewals each month and a fresh round of revisions in 2023 to the regulations governing cannabis operators in the state.

“I don’t think there’s anything to be worried about,” said Commissioner Ava Concepcion. “We’re still committed to doing our part.”


Dan Adams can be reached at daniel.adams@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Dan_Adams86.