Minnesota’s medical cannabis director resigns after nearly 5 years

The woman who has led Minnesota’s Office of Medical Cannabis since 2019 will step down at the end of this week.

Medical Cannabis Director Chris Tholkes submitted her resignation last week and her last day will be Friday, a Minnesota Department of Health spokesperson said on Monday.

During her time with the Office of Medical Cannabis, Tholkes oversaw the expansion of the state medical cannabis program to include more patient diagnoses and allow the use of cannabis flower.

“I’ve had the great honor to work with dedicated public servants, passionate and invested stakeholders, and creative and committed legislators to expand the medical program and craft an adult use law,” Tholkes said in a statement. “I’m incredibly proud of our work and will be cheering folks on for the upcoming implementation work.

Tholkes said her next role will be as Minneapolis’ director of health operations.

“Cannabis regulatory work is intense and after 5 years of working under a microscope and at a breakneck pace, the time is right for me to make a change,” she said.

An MDH spokesperson said “internal staff” will take up Tholkes’ job duties until her replacement is hired.

Tholkes’ departure means the state will need to fill leadership positions at both of its agencies charged with cannabis regulation.

Businesswoman Erin DuPree was in line to head the newly formed Office of Cannabis Management — which regulates the recreational marijuana industry — until it was revealed that her stores may have sold products containing more hemp-derived THC than state law allows. She withdrew her nomination just one day after Gov. Tim Walz announced his pick.

After the stumble, Walz said he will direct his administration to find a regulator, rather than an industry insider, for the next cannabis management director appointee.