Minnesota’s next top cannabis regulator will see more green

A person tends to cannabis plants
A worker tags young cannabis plants at a marijuana farm operated by Greenlight in Grandview, Mo. Minnesota legalized cannabis last year, although rules for a retail market are still being set.
Charlie Riedel | AP 2022

The person eventually chosen to lead Minnesota’s relatively new marijuana regulatory agency will be in line for a higher salary than the first time the state posted the position.

The latest job posting for the Office of Cannabis Management executive director includes a pay scale that runs from nearly $133,000 to $190,000 per year. Initially, the range for the position was $105,000 to $150,000.

Gov. Tim Walz hired an executive director in September, but she quickly left after her business record came under scrutiny. The director reports to the governor, so he makes the final selection.

Applications are due by Feb. 26, and the goal is to get somebody aboard by late spring or early summer.

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Interim Director Charlene Briner said Monday that the new scale is comparable with other top cannabis regulators elsewhere in the country.

“Our thinking is that by bumping up that compensation and bringing it more into line, we’re going to hopefully attract a pool of candidates who are qualified and ready to do this challenging work,” Briner said.

She said human resources officials within the Department of Minnesota Management and Budget were consulted in setting the pay range. Briner said she is not interested in the permanent role.

Lawmakers changed the compensation model for agency leaders as part of the new state budget. Previously, most commissioners and other directors were barred from making more than 133 percent of the governor’s pay (who makes around $144,000 per year). That cap was removed in the most recent legislative session.

Actual pay has varied based on the agency.

The cannabis regulator job solicitation posted last month made clear that finalists are subject to reference and background checks, including by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension and the Department of Revenue. A review by the legislative auditor released last month found that some of those steps were missed when Walz made his initial hire.