On September 21, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz appointed cannabis business consultant Erin DuPree as head of the Office of Cannabis Management, to oversee the state’s nascent adult-use marijuana market. On September 22, amid allegations that she sold illegal products at her hemp shop, DuPree said that she would “not be going forward” as the the state’s new cannabis czar.
Her appointment would have taken effect on October 2.
Walz, a Democrat, pushed a bill allowing recreational cannabis use for adults 21 of years and older, making Minnesota the 23rd US state to legalize nonmedical marijuana. The bill, which was signed in May and went into effect on August 1, allows residents of Minnesota to possess and grow their own marijuana.
Per the Star Tribune, “Loonacy Cannabis Co., which DuPree founded in Apple Valley in July 2022, advertised and sold noncompliant vapes and edible products containing more THC than is legally allowed, according to the store’s social media videos and online product listings that have since been deleted.”
Just a day earlier, Walz defended DuPree as his pick in a statement, writing “she has managed multiple aspects of the business and led continued research on hemp-derived and cannabis products while maintaining compliance with state laws and regulations. With direct experience in Minnesota’s hemp and cannabis industry and over 20 years of success in launching, managing, and growing businesses and organizations, Erin DuPree is an outstanding choice to lead the Office of Cannabis Management.”
Before the revelations, DuPree said that “it is an honor to join the Walz-Flanagan administration as the first director of the new Office of Cannabis Management,” said DuPree. “I look forward to working closely with all of the legislators, stakeholders, and advocates who worked so hard to pass this new law and am committed to the work of ensuring Minnesota’s new adult-use cannabis industry will grow and thrive for years to come.”
DuPree said the first objective of her tenure as head of the Office of Cannabis Management would be hiring. The office allegedly needs around 150 employees, and several job postings went online earlier last week.
Asked about the timeframe, DuPree hoped that Minnesota’s legal cannabis industry would take shape more quickly than those of other states, which have taken anywhere between two or three years to start retail. “We don’t have to reinvent the wheel here,” she said. “We’re lucky as the 23rd state to legalize, we can look back on the other 22 states and see what’s been good and what’s not been good and use that to help make policy here.” The Office of Cannabis Management expects retail sales by 2025, with rulemaking for adult-use cannabis and lower-potency hemp products starting this fall.
Some cannabis publications believe that Minnesota’s market will take longer to open than those of states like California, Michigan, Washington, New Jersey and Colorado, all of which saw retail less than 19 months after legalization.
But Minnesotans don’t have to wait to enjoy legal cannabis, as several retail stores have already opened on Native American reservations. The Red Lake Reservation in north-central Minnesota began selling recreational marijuana at its NativeCare store on August 1, the very day that state-wide legalization went into effect. Demand has been so strong in the reservation that the tribe also plans to launch a mobile marijuana store in the near future.
Over in the northeastern city of Mahnomen, the White Earth Nation opened an adult-use store as the first step of a cultivation operation. Finally, the business council of the Leech Lake Band of the Ojibwe tribe has approved an ordinance allowing for the sale and consumption of recreational cannabis on its reservation, with plans to open an adult-use retail program currently in the works.
In case you didn’t know and are wondering why all this is possible, tribal nations across the US are allowed to implement their own retail programs independently of state legislators. As for the rest of Minnesota’s 5.7 million population, they will have to wait and see what the next cannabis czar is going to do.