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Key State Official To Become CEO Of Medical Cannabis Company

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A move in Minnesota's medical marijuana program is raising some eyebrows. A state official who helped set up the cannabis program will be CEO of one of the state's new producers.

Assistant Commissioner for the Minnesota Department of Health Manny Munson-Regala will lead LeafLine Labs. It's one of just two medical cannabis producers selected by the state to do business beginning July 1.

"Let's let the program evolve, let's let it roll out," Munson-Regala said.

He appeared on WCCO Sunday Morning responding to criticism of the state's roll-out of its new medical marijuana program.

Two days later, Munson-Regala accepted the top job at a manufacturer he'd laid the ground rules for.

Political Science Professor David Schultz doesn't see the move as the ethical one to make.

"It raises enormous questions about conflicts of interest and inappropriate behavior," Schultz said. "We don't know now if this person was making decisions based upon the best interest of the state of Minnesota or based upon his best personal interests of in terms of where he wanted to land when his government employment was over," he said.

"That's an understandable reaction," Munson-Regala told WCCO by phone on Thursday.

He said wasn't a job he was looking for and that it happened fast.

He said LeafLine Labs contacted him last Wednesday to be its CEO. He notified the Health Department one week later of his decision to take it.

"I made decisions as a regulator that I'm sure that when I start running the business I'm going to go, 'Why the heck did I make the decision, because this is making my life now a lot more challenging,'" Munson-Regala said.

The Health Department said it recused Munson-Regala this Wednesday of his responsibilities with the medical cannabis program.

Gov. Mark Dayton said Thursday night that no Minnesota law can keep his assistant health commissioner from moving on.

"I don't know all the circumstances," Dayton said. "But I don't like the appearance of it."

But Schultz said most states do have such rules keeping the regulator from becoming the regulated.

Schultz said the majority of states have at least a one-year cooling off period to prevent a government official from taking a job like this.

Munson-Regala set up the selection process and conducted site visits with the companies that applied for a cannabis contract with the state, but he told WCCO he wasn't on the voting panel that made the final decision.

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