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Local businesses look for better state cannabis leadership

Erin DuPree stepped down as the state’s first director of cannabis management in September.
Image by Shalom Berhane
Watchtower Dispensary on University Avenue, October 4th, 2023.

After Erin DuPree stepped down as director of the state’s Office of Cannabis Management (OCB) in September, local providers are pushing for better leadership for Minnesota’s cannabis regulation.

Gov. Tim Walz (DFL) appointed DuPree to the position on Sept. 21 to oversee the state’s new cannabis regulation office following its legalization in the state in August. Although DuPree was meant to begin her new role on Monday, she stepped down a day after being appointed following allegations of her cannabis business in Apple Valley selling products significantly over the legal limit. 

Being Minnesota’s first OCB director, DuPree hurt local dispensaries trying to navigate changing laws. Cody James Prybilla, an employee at the Rec Centers Dispensary in Dinkytown, said DuPree’s misconduct sets a bad precedent for businesses trying to distribute cannabis products safely and lawfully.

“It can make it extremely challenging for businesses such as ours that do try to follow the rules, when there are plenty of places out there that are not,” Prybilla said.

Walz’s appointment of DuPree and her subsequent departure left many businesses affected by a decision they had no involvement in making, which can continue to negatively hurt the cannabis industry as a whole, according to Prybilla.

Laura Beth, another employee at the Rec Centers Dispensary, said state leaders must involve community members and businesses when appointing people to regulate the cannabis industry.

“It was a really big missed opportunity and I’m hoping that they’ll correct it by listening to the community, listening to people who really know cannabis who have been doing this for a long time,” Beth said.

Beth added decisions like DuPree’s appointment not only affect businesses’ ability to sell products, but customers who may be uncertain of what they are allowed to purchase.

“It’s very important to talk to the community about what they’re looking for versus just appointing someone who is going to have such positional power over how new cannabis laws are going to affect sales and how it’s going to affect how people use cannabis,” Beth said.

State leaders must uphold cannabis regulations on local businesses instead of “making an example” out of holding large businesses accountable for cannabis misconduct, according to Prybilla.

Brown Chitlinz is the owner of CHITLINZ, a local pop-up shop that provides different cannabis products. According to Chitlinz, transparency from leadership will lead to better collaboration between cannabis regulators and providers moving forward.

“By fostering transparency and involving a diverse range of voices, we can work towards regulations that benefit everyone,” Chitlinz said.

Other cannabis providers near the University of Minnesota shared similar concerns regarding the cannabis regulations and oversight. Campus Market Deli & Tobacco, also located in Dinkytown, recently began offering new cannabis products for recreational use.

Katie Maki, an employee at Campus Market, applauded how well Minnesota handled the legalization of recreational cannabis but acknowledged improvements must be made from leaders and regulators as cannabis continues to become accessible in the state. 

“We just obviously have done a good job, but some things are falling through the cracks and we have to pay attention and find people that are trustworthy and can make sure we do a good job with rolling everything out,” Maki said.

This article has been updated.

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