The St. Paul small business entrepreneur who resigned Friday evening just 36 hours after Gov. Tim Walz appointed her to serve as the state’s first director of the Office of Cannabis Management is now claiming she was instructed “not to speak to the media” when discrepancies surfaced surrounding her professional resume and the short-lived hemp-derived edibles shop she ran in Apple Valley.
Erin DuPree’s decision to withdraw from the newly created post as the state’s cannabis czar, just days before her official Oct. 2 start date, followed a short but intense period of scrutiny she received from several media outlets that began Thursday during an unusual Zoom-style introductory press conference with journalists.
Several news stories began trickling out over the next 24 hours, including those by Alpha News, about whether the Walz administration had properly vetted DuPree’s resume in recent weeks as the governor’s team was considering a number of candidates from a pool more than 150 applicants.
One of those was a report from the Star Tribune detailing instances where DuPree had advertised online hemp-derived edible products for sale in her store, Loonacy LLC, that were above the potency limit allowed in Minnesota. The Star Tribune reported that “the governor’s office deferred questions” about those products to DuPree.
But DuPree, 43, in an interview with WCCO Radio on Monday morning, said she “was given advice to not speak to the media who had actually reached out for comment from me.”
“And I believe had I been allowed to speak to the people who were writing the articles they would have looked a lot differently because they would have been able to hear what was actually going on in those in those situations,” DuPree told radio host Vineeta Sawkar.
DuPree also said in the interview that she plans to issue a statement later this week to explain that and other issues media highlighted about her professional background.
Discrepancies involving employment record
On Friday, Alpha News was the first to report that DuPree’s consulting business, Cook and Quinwood Consulting LLC, had been listed as “inactive” by the Minnesota Secretary of State’s business filings since February.
When Gov. Walz announced Thursday morning that he had chosen DuPree to serve as the state’s director of the Office of Cannabis Management, he touted her credentials as a consultant for a number of businesses and start-up companies, and described her role with Cook and Quinwood Consulting in the present tense. But the entity’s business filings with the state reveal that DuPree had failed to renew her registration for Cook and Quinwood Consulting by the end of 2022. As a result, the business was issued an “administrative termination” to inactive status on Feb. 1.
DuPree also told media during the remotely-conducted press conference on Thursday that she has “been doing business here (in Minnesota) for the better part of 20 years as an entrepreneur and consultant,” and mentioned that in recent years she worked with “no less than a dozen” start-up retail marijuana businesses in other states where it’s been legalized.
She briefly stated she has performed consultation and contract work with clients in California, Colorado, Michigan, New Jersey and Illinois — all states that have decriminalized recreational marijuana.
While DuPree’s own resume on LinkedIn states she has been running Cook and Quinwood Consulting for more than five years, publicly available divorce records from 2021 reveal that the only income she listed in a court filing was related to her employment as an independent sales contractor for Empire Today and made a monthly income of $3,750. That wasn’t listed in her LinkedIn resume and didn’t line up with the work she and Gov. Walz said she’s been doing as a consultant the last half decade.
Walz: ‘We got this wrong;’ search for new cannabis director resumes
Over the weekend, Gov. Walz participated in a previously scheduled interview with Twin Cities-based MinnPost, where he told the news outlet about DuPree’s appointment and abrupt departure that “in this case the process did not work, and we got this wrong.”
The governor’s office said it will continue to lean on longtime DFL caucus and state government employee Charlene Briner to lead the administrative work for the fledgling Office of Cannabis Management and the search for a new director.
Beginning in June, Briner had been contracted through the state Department of Agriculture to help guide the new office and field applications for the director position.
When DuPree was announced as Walz’s choice for OCM director Thursday, Briner said: “Erin emerged early as a leading candidate as we considered a wide range of qualified individuals for this important new leadership role. Her experience, credibility, and passion for ensuring the success of Minnesota’s new cannabis industry made her a stand-out among an extraordinary pool of talented candidates. I have no doubt those qualities will serve her well as she carries out her work in the months ahead.”
Whether Briner and Walz’s staff will dip back into their pool of previous candidates or open the position back up for additional applications remains to be seen.
Republicans in the state Senate say they are watching the next steps closely, as the position is classified by statute as one the Senate can choose whether to confirm with an up or down vote.
But DFLers were able to change the “advice and consent” process in the Senate this spring when they inserted language into a state government omnibus bill that states “if the senate does not reject an appointment within 60 legislative days of the day of receipt of the letter of appointment by the president of the senate, the senate has consented to the appointment.”
“I hope that whoever is appointed to fill the role on a permanent basis is brought up for a vote in this next session,” said Sen. Jordan Rasmusson, R-Fergus Falls, who served on a conference committee for HF100. “My concern with Ms. Dupree and the direction it shows that the Democrats are trying to head with this appointment, they have put forward an industry advocate, someone who is making money off selling cannabis products, and frankly, wasn’t even able to follow the law in their own business conduct.”
Rasmusson said he hopes in the governor’s second attempt to fill the position that Walz considers someone who has a regulatory background or someone who has worked with law enforcement leadership and has the ability to “hold these eventual (retail marijuana) license holders to account.”
Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.