News release: Minnesota Department of Health hires director for Office of Medical Cannabis

News Release
July 23, 2014

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Minnesota Department of Health hires director for Office of Medical Cannabis

The Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) today announced the hiring of Michelle Larson as the director of the department’s newly created Office of Medical Cannabis, which will implement and administer the state’s new medical cannabis program. She will begin working in this role on August 13.

Larson’s duties as director will include managing the program staff and guiding the efforts of staff and external vendors helping to build up the program and its components. Major tasks in the next few months include developing and promulgating rules to govern the operations of the program, creating an application and selection process for cannabis manufacturers, and building the information technology infrastructure to support the patient registry.

Larson brings a wealth of administrative and policy experience to the role, having served most recently as the deputy director of the MDH Office of Statewide Health Improvement. In that capacity, she has managed high-profile health promotion programs in such areas as tobacco, obesity and nutrition. That work required close coordination with local governments, consumer advocates, industry and the legislature. Prior to taking this role, she worked for the MDH Office of Emergency Preparedness. During her time there, she managed the complex Minnesota medical supply and resource management programs, ensuring that the state had access to needed medical supplies during public health emergencies. Before joining MDH she worked in Lake County as an environmental health specialist.

Minnesota Health Commissioner Dr. Ed Ehlinger said the medical cannabis program will need to ramp up quickly, and Larson has the right mix of experience and skills to lead the implementation effort in partnership with stakeholders.

“This position requires a skilled administrator, but it also requires someone who can work with people from a range of backgrounds,” Commissioner Ehlinger said. “Michelle brings a strong background in public policy and administration, as well as a history of working with the public health community, law enforcement and security, pharmacists, health care providers and community members. She has the ability to work with people to get things done right.”

In addition to her professional experience, Larson has a master’s degree in public affairs from the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Government and is working toward a doctorate in organizational leadership and policy development at the University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development. She also served in the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing based in Duluth.

More information about Minnesota’s medical cannabis program is available on the MDH website at


Media inquiries:

Scott Smith
MDH Communications