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Commissioner: 'Environment Is Ripe' For Corruption In Cannabis Industry

BOSTON (CBS) - Wednesday marks the one year anniversary of the sale of recreational marijuana in Massachusetts.

On day one, there were two only retail pot shops and both joints were jumping. One year later 33 shops have done about $394 million in gross sales. Quite a few customers have shared their experiences with Shaleen Title.

"Oh they love to tell me about their first time," Title said. "They love talking about cannabis to me."

Title is a Commissioner with the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission. She knows a lot about pot. It started in college.

Shaleen Title
Commissioner Shaleen Title, Cannabis Control Commission (WBZ-TV)

"When I was a sophomore in college we had someone from the ACLU visit and told us that if you are black you are 57 times more likely to be incarcerated for a drug offense," Title said. "I would have expected some disparity but that number just blew me away."

Fifteen years later, magazines keep putting Title, a lawyer, on their "power" lists. Title is only one of five CCC commissioners, but she is, by far, the most outspoken. For instance, when Governor Charlie Baker announced a four month ban on vaping products, Title took to Twitter and called Baker's ban a "terrible decision" that was "dangerous" and "short-sighted." Title thinks people are being pushed to the illicit market.

"There's no label, there's no seed-to-sale tracking, no testing, you just buy it on the street and you have no idea what you just bought," Title said. "I know that's what is happening."

Title also suspects there is corruption in how cities and towns are negotiating their agreements with cannabis companies. The U.S. Attorney is reportedly investigating whether towns are asking for "voluntary" side payments that aren't exactly voluntary.

David Wade asked Title: "Are there towns out there now that are saying 'give me more money?'"

"Yes," Title answered.

"More than what the law says they can take?" Wade asked.

"Yes," Title said.

"So you think that there is corruption happening?" Wade asked.

"Yeah not in every city or town but I think the environment is ripe for it," Title said.

Of the 33 retail shops now open, zero are certified as minority owned. Title is passionate about leveling the playing field and continuing her role- as one magazine put it- as the "people's weed watchdog."

"I do like that title," Title said with a big smile.

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