The head of Minnesota’s medical cannabis office, Chris Tholkes, is stepping down after nearly five years at the helm of the regulator.
Tholkes, who played a significant role in expanding the state’s medical cannabis program and contributing to the crafting of the new adult-use law, is set to begin her role as operations director at the Minneapolis Health Department on Monday. Her departure leaves a notable vacancy in the state’s cannabis regulatory landscape.
Tholkes’ resignation comes amid changes in Minnesota’s cannabis regulatory framework, with the recent legalisation of recreational cannabis for adults over 21.
The state established the Office of Cannabis Management to oversee the adult-use cannabis industry, but the recent departure of Erin DuPree, the initial director of the office, created an additional leadership vacuum.
As Business of Cannabis reported in September, DuPree resigned in September after reports revealed that she had sold products exceeding legal THC limits at her retail shop and had a history of unpaid taxes and court judgments.
It comes amid reports that Minnesota’s recently passed adult-use marijuana law may unintentionally create a loophole allowing hemp cultivators to sell flower products with THC levels exceeding the 0.3% limit. This potential oversight could enable hemp growers to establish a market presence more than a year before the scheduled launch of adult-use marijuana sales in early 2025.
The loophole arises from the fact that Minnesota’s regulatory authority, particularly the Office of Medical Cannabis, lacks the jurisdiction to inspect and regulate hemp flower; their oversight is limited to processed hemp-derived cannabinoid products. This regulatory gap leaves hemp flower, with potentially higher THC levels, outside their purview.
The Office of Cannabis Management is tasked with regulating both recreational and medical cannabis, as well as overseeing hemp-derived edibles. The departure of both Tholkes and DuPree presents a challenge for the state as it navigates the complex landscape of cannabis regulation and implementation.