Sahan Jnl reports
Marijuana industry insiders and advocates are pushing Governor Tim Walz to tap apparent runner-up Clemon Dabney as the state’s first cannabis czar less than a week after business consultant Erin DuPree was appointed to the role and then suddenly resigned.
Dabney, a marijuana entrepreneur who holds a doctorate in botany and plant biology, is the current chief sciences officer of Uniflora Holistics, a local hemp and CBD company.
A Change.org petition started earlier this week calling for his appointment had close to 500 signatures as of late Thursday afternoon.
Marcus Harcus, another marijuana entrepreneur who started the petition and who formerly worked as a lobbyist for Uniflora, called DuPree’s resignation “divine intervention.” DuPree was appointed on September 21, and resigned the following day after the Star Tribune reported that her business sold hemp products that contained more THC than allowed by state law. THC is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana.
“This gives the governor a second chance to make the best decision that he can possibly make,” Harcus said. “Dr. Dabney is our best chance as someone who can lead a rulemaking process that will set Minnesota’s cannabis industry up for success in terms of being a homegrown, craft-oriented, equitable cannabis industry.”
The petition says that Dabney was the finalist behind DuPree for the cannabis director position. Harcus said Dabney is not involved with the petition.
Dabney declined to comment for this story.
The state cannabis director will play a key role in setting up the legal recreational marijuana market in Minnesota. The cabinet-level position will lead the Office of Cannabis Management, a new state agency, in establishing regulations for all marijuana products in the state, including how much THC will be allowed in them. The office will also be tasked with issuing licenses to entrepreneurs seeking to do business in the industry.
Industry experts expect the recreational program to be up and running in Minnesota by 2025, although sales are already underway in two of the state’s Tribal Nations, White Earth and Red Lake.
Walz signaled earlier this week that the state was going in a different direction than Dabney, although he did not name Dabney or mention the petition. Walz told reporters during a news conference that his office’s search for someone to replace DuPree would prioritize hiring an experienced regulator over a marijuana industry insider.
Claire Lancaster, a spokesperson for the governor’s office, declined to comment to Sahan Journal further about the state’s hiring process. Allen Sommerfield, a spokesperson with the Minnesota Department of Agriculture, which is also involved in the process, told Sahan Journal that “next steps are being evaluated.”
“Clearly, something didn’t work the way it should have,” Sommerfield said about DuPree’s hiring and resignation. “We are working to identify gaps in the process so that we can strengthen it moving forward.”
Two other local marijuana insiders hinted that Dabney’s chances of being chosen for the top position are slim.
“There’s going to be assistant director positions, and Dr. Dabney might be perfectly qualified for one of those,” said Jason Tarasek, a Minneapolis attorney specializing in marijuana issues. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and industry experience that the Office of Cannabis Management could benefit from.”
Leili Fatehi, campaign manager for the MN is Ready Coalition that successfully pushed for marijuana legalization at the state Legislature earlier this year, praised Dabney’s “cannabis-specific expertise and local industry knowledge.”