Cannabis director search to start over as questions remain

Cannabis director search to start over as questions remains

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz will begin a new search for a director of the Office of Cannabis Management after his first pick withdrew Friday night amid questions about her cannabis business and history of legal judgments against her.

Walz says he’s trying to figure out how Erin DuPree, his first choice, got through a vetting process.

“I’ll go back and ask my team why. They go to a lot of process before they get to me,” he said at a MinnPost media event on Saturday. “This is about transparency and accountability in government. I own this one. We’ll get the right person in there.”

DuPree’s appointment was sidetracked by the discovery her Apple Valley cannabis business sold some products with more than the legal amount of THC allowed in Minnesota. She also has multiple civil judgments and tax liens on her record, according to court documents reviewed by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

“I never sold anything that was out of compliance knowingly,” DuPree told WCCO Radio on Monday morning. “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.”

As for her other legal problems, she says she was unable to respond to those news reports on the advice of her lawyer.

DuPree did not respond to voicemail or text from 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.

Last week on “At Issue with Tom Hauser,” the interim director of the Office of Cannabis Management who helped in the search for a director said they had a big pool of applicants.

“It is anecdotally an unprecedented level of interest to lead a state agency,” said Charlene Briner, a consultant working on the implementation of the new cannabis law until a new director is selected. “So we had exactly 150 applicants. From there we narrowed that down among the qualified pool and conducted many rounds, several rounds of interviews before sending a pool of finalists onto the governor.”

Meanwhile, people in the cannabis community in Minnesota continue to have questions about how Dupree was selected in the first place.

“In general, I think people just have questions about the vetting process because ultimately the issues of this individual’s qualifications and background were not turned up because of some extensive background search,” says Leili Fatehi with Blunt Strategies. “This was just members of the community doing a simple Google search.”

The only other finalist, according to the governor’s office, was Dr. Clemon Dabney, a molecular scientist. The search process will resume, but it’s unclear if the whole process will start over.