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Minnesota Adult-Use Cannabis Market Projected to Launch By Early 2025

Still without a permanent director, the state's Office of Cannabis Management anticipates opening the first retail dispensaries in less than 18 months.

The past two months have been unusually uneventful for Minnesota's new Office of Cannabis Management (OCM). Before that period, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D) thought his administration had found the perfect candidate to run the regulatory body established by the state’s new cannabis legalization law, which went into effect on Aug. 1, 2023.


However, just one day after announcing the appointment of Erin Dupree to head the OCM, Dupree abruptly resigned following an MPR News-APM Reports investigation, which found that her hemp-based business, Loonacy Cannabis Co., was allegedly selling products that exceeded state limits on THC potency. The investigation also discovered that she owed large sums to former business associates and employees and had amassed tens of thousands of dollars in federal tax liens.


The entire incident was an embarrassing start to the legal adult-use cannabis era in Minnesota. It also left a void at arguably one of the most important political appointments in the state's history. With a market sector valuation expected to exceed $1.5 billion in sales revenue by 2029, Walz cannot afford another misstep in finding a replacement for Dupree.


Walz has vowed to identify and hire a seasoned regulator for the job. However, he hasn't interviewed any candidates since the Dupree debacle nor given a timetable for hiring a new director.


"We're looking, I think, nationally a little bit more to see how that goes," Walz said.


"We're looking, I think, nationally a little bit more to see how that goes."

- Minnesota Governor Tim Walz (D)


In the meantime, the governor is sticking with the current interim director, Charlene Briner, to run the office until then. After Dupree's resignation, Walz's office made no formal comments. However, the governor said at the time, "We have a responsibility to assure Minnesotans that this emerging market will be safe, lawful and well-regulated. We're making progress toward implementing this work, including beginning the hiring process for nine key leadership positions, and we will launch the rulemaking process in October."


As part of that “responsibility to assure Minnesotans that this emerging market will be safe, lawful, and well-regulated,” Briner recently spoke with the Minnesota Star Tribune about the OCM’s progress in establishing guidelines, regulations, and timelines for Minnesota’s adult-use cannabis market launch.


Briner said in the interview that she expects the state to open its first licensed retail dispensaries by early 2025, even though several crucial administrative positions still need to be filled and most of the program's rules and requirements finalized.

"There's a lot of work happening behind the scenes keeping us on track for a successful launch in 2025," Briner told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.


"There's a lot of work happening behind the scenes keeping us on track for a successful launch in 2025."

- Charlene Briner, Interim Dir. of the Minnesota Office of Cannabis Management


She also told the Tribune that she expects to make nine vital administrative hires over the next few weeks so those individuals can hit the ground running by the end of the year or early January. Briner also indicated a new round of office positions will be posted on the OCM website soon to aid in that process. Her goal is to have about 25% of the office's 120 employees in place by early spring.


The OCM is also receiving assistance from the Department of Health, which recently assigned inspectors to monitor companies selling products containing hemp-derived cannabinoids. Additionally, staff from the Department of Agriculture will be assisting the Health Department with its compliance and enforcement duties. Finally, around two dozen state employees from a wide array of government agencies have been reassigned to aid the OCM in rule-making and operations.


Briner is cautiously optimistic that the state's goal of opening retail dispensaries by early 2025 is realistic and achievable. If the rule-making effort proceeds smoothly, she is confident her office could begin accepting license applications from aspiring marijuana entrepreneurs by the final quarter of 2024.


"What we have learned is that this is an ambitious timeline, but we are committed to meeting it and there's a lot of work to be done," Briner said.


"What we have learned is that this is an ambitious timeline, but we are committed to meeting it and there's a lot of work to be done."

- Charlene Briner, Interim Dir. of the Minnesota Office of Cannabis Management





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