Minnesota medical cannabis director resigns leaving 2nd opening for marijuana regulator

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Minnesota Medical Solutions employee Guy Lindblom walks through a greenhouse filled with plants at one of the state's two manufacturers of medical marijuana in May 2015 in Otsego.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News file

The head of Minnesota’s medical cannabis office is stepping down. The resignation of Chris Tholkes means that the state must now fill two vacancies for top marijuana regulators.

Tholkes is leaving on Friday after nearly five years leading the Office of Medical Cannabis and 14 years with the Minnesota Department of Health. She starts Monday as operations director at the city of Minneapolis Health Department.

In an email to MPR News, Tholkes said she was honored to have worked to expand the medical cannabis program and craft the new adult use law.

“I’m incredibly proud of our work and will be cheering folks on for the upcoming implementation work,” Tholkes said. “Cannabis regulatory work is intense and after five years of working under a microscope and at a breakneck pace, the time is right for me to make a change.”

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Minnesota opened the door to medical marijuana in 2015.

This year the DFL-led Minnesota legislature legalized recreational cannabis for adults over 21, and set up the Office of Cannabis Management to regulate the new industry. Marijuana remains illegal under federal law.

A day after Gov. Tim Walz appointed her, Erin DuPree resigned as director of the Office of Cannabis Management in September after the Star Tribune and MPR News investigated her background.

MPR News found that DuPree had sold products at her retail shop that exceeded legal THC limits and had a record of unpaid taxes and court judgments.