Cannabis commission approves change in marijuana company ownership

ANGELA WEISS/AFP/Getty Images/AFP/Getty Images

State cannabis regulators on Thursday unanimously approved the first large-scale change in ownership of a marijuana company after a vote on the matter had been postponed last week.

A vote on the sale of Sira Naturals Inc. to Canadian company Cannabis Strategies Acquisition Corp. had been on the Cannabis Control Commission’s agenda on May 16, but was postponed at the urging of Commissioner Shaleen Title, who said the commission’s process for reviewing transfers of ownership simply wasn’t “sustainable.”

Title urged the commission to get more information about the company’s contracts and ownership before voting, adding that her decision was not about Sira Naturals, in particular, but instead about the commission finding a consistent and thorough process for ownership reviews.


“We set precedents in everything that we do for the first time,” Title said after Thursday’s brief meeting, “so it’s something that I think all five of us think of a lot is down the line, when there’s different commissioners, there’s different staff, there’s different applicants, is this a process that has integrity to it and is it rigorous enough? And I do feel satisfied with that today.”

Over the last week, the commission received and reviewed several additional documents about the Canadian company, all of which were summarized at Thursday’s meeting.

Most notably, the commission received an affidavit signed by Jonathan Sandelman, the CEO of Cannabis Strategies Acquisition Corp.

Sandelman pledged that he understands and will follow the cannabis regulations in Massachusetts, including the statute that limits companies from owning or controlling more than three stores that sell both recreational and medical marijuana. (Companies technically can own up to six stores, if three are exclusively medical and the other three are exclusively recreational, though this is proving to be uncommon.)

Sira Naturals Inc. operates three medical dispensaries in Cambridge, Needham, and Somerville.


A recent investigation by the Globe’s Spotlight Team exposed how some marijuana companies are using onerous management contracts, financing and product purchasing agreements, shell companies, and other questionable tactics to quietly gain substantial power over numerous marijuana licenses that are seemingly held by independent firms.

Commission chairman Steven Hoffman said the commission wasn’t solely concerned with the “rule of three” when evaluating the acquisition of Sira Naturals, but seeing that signed affidavit was “kind of icing on the cake.”

Once the documents were summarized Thursday, there was little discussion on the matter.

Within minutes, the measure unanimously passed. From beginning to end, Thursday’s meeting was barely 14 minutes.

Hoffman said because of the cooperation of the applicant, the commission was able to get the information it needed over the past week to make an informed decision. Moving forward, Hoffman said he feels confident that the commission has a strong process for evaluating change in ownership requests.

“I’m very happy with where we ended up,” he said. “I think we got it right, and I think it’s a great template for how we’ll go forward with the next set of applicants.”

Felicia Gans can be reached at felicia.gans@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @FeliciaGans.