Updated Sep 25, 2023 - News

"We got this wrong:" Minnesota's first legal cannabis director quits one day after job announcement

Gov Tim Walz and Erin Dupree in separate head shots

Gov. Tim Walz and Erin DuPree. Photos:Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images and the Walz administration.

The search is back on for a state official to lead the launch of Minnesota's newly legal marijuana market.

Catch up fast: Gov. Tim Walz's pick to lead the new Office of Cannabis Management, hemp business owner and consultant Erin DuPree, withdrew from the role on Friday evening, just a day after her appointment was announced.

Context: The resignation came hours after the Star Tribune and Minnesota Public Radio News reported that DuPree's Apple Valley cannabis business had advertised and offered products that are not allowed by law. MPR also detailed tax liens and other alleged financial issues.

  • DuPree, whose social media and website reportedly featured items above legal THC limits, said in a statement she "never knowingly sold any non-compliant product, and when I became aware of them I removed the products from inventory."
  • DuPree, who had not previously worked in government, said while her "skills, experience and expertise made me the right person for this job at this moment," she decided to step aside because she had become a distraction. She had been scheduled to start the job on Oct. 2.

What they're saying: In an interview with MinnPost on Saturday, Walz took responsibility for the hire and said it was "not the finest hour."

  • "In this case the process did not work, and we got this wrong," he said.

The other side: In a Monday morning interview with WCCO Radio, DuPree said she felt "hung out to dry" and was hamstrung by advice to not speak directly to media outlets seeking comment last week. She reiterated that she did not knowingly sell non-compliant products and said she had a compliance team to help her navigate the rules.

  • "I think any small business owner who has a hemp-derived shop or sells hemp-derived products here in the state understands how convoluted and confusing our laws were," she said. "To be quite honest, that's one of the reasons I wanted to serve the state and our community."
  • DuPree called reports of past financial issues "not accurate." citing "extenuating circumstances." She declined to elaborate, saying that while she plans to put out another statement on the matter, "at this time, I'm not willing to talk about them."

Of note: This is the second time in roughly two months that one of Walz's appointees resigned over concerns related to their personal conduct.

  • The governor noted Saturday that he names thousands of people to posts ranging from agency heads to advisory boards.

What's next: Walz said in a statement Friday that the new office will proceed with hiring agency staff and starting the rulemaking process that needs to happen before the state can offer licenses for cannabis businesses.

  • Charlene Briner, a veteran of state government and DFL politics who has been working on the development of the new office, will continue to lead the efforts in the interim.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional comments from DuPree.

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