Gov. Walz says lesson learned as search for state cannabis director restarts

(KSTP) – Four days after his choice to lead the state’s cannabis management office withdrew, Gov. Tim Walz talked Tuesday about what happened and where the state goes from here.

Gov. Walz announced Erin DuPree as the state’s first-ever cannabis management director last week.

However, the discovery that her Apple Valley cannabis business sold some products with more than the legal amount of THC and the fact that she has multiple civil judgments and tax liens on her record, sidetracked her appointment. She ultimately decided to back out, saying in part, “It has become clear that I have become a distraction that would stand in the way of the important work that needs to be done.”

RELATED: Minnesota’s would-be head of cannabis regulation quits amid reports she sold illegal products

Speaking after a University of Minnesota event celebrating updates to Fraser Hall, Gov. Walz said the whole debacle “ends up on me … and we got this one wrong.”

The governor said he wanted someone from inside the industry because of how new it was. However, that has now changed and he said the state will be “looking at the whole process.”

“One of the big things I’m asking for is we’re going to hire a regulator,” the governor said. “That’s probably where the focus should have been in the beginning. I’ve learned that lesson now, and that’s what we’re going to do.

Walz added that his initial plan of finding someone within the industry “limited our ability to maybe find the right person.”

“I’ll put out to our team we’re going to shift and look for a regulatory leader in this space,” Gov. Walz said.

In the meantime, the governor said Charlene Briner, the interim director of the Office of Cannabis Management, will continue leading the agency. However, he says he expects everything to stay on track and have a new appointment relatively soon.