Cannabis Expungement Board Director named by Gov. Walz

A Cannabis Expungement Board Director, tasked with reviewing eligible felony and misdemeanor-level cannabis-related convictions for expungement as part of the legalization of recreational marijuana, has been appointed.

On Wednesday, Minnesota Governor Tim Walz and Lieutenant Governor Peggy Flanagan announced the appointment of James Rowader to the position. He will officially start on March 25.  

"I’m proud to appoint James Rowader as executive director of the Cannabis Expungement Board," said Gov. Walz in a statement following the announcement. "The board will play a critical role in addressing and reducing disparities in our criminal justice system. Rowader has demonstrated leadership and legal talent across public, private, and nonprofit sectors, and I’m confident in his ability to lead this work."

According to the announcement, Rowader is the director of people and culture for the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota (ACLU-MN). He previously served as the city attorney for the City of Minneapolis.

"I am honored and humbled to be appointed by Governor Walz as the Executive Director of the Cannabis Expungement Board," said Rowader in a statement. "Throughout my career, I have been focused on supporting efforts to reduce and eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in the employment space and criminal justice system. I am truly excited to apply my leadership experiences and continue to do meaningful and impactful work to address these disparities as the inaugural leader of this important organization dedicated to the review of cannabis felonies for expungement or resentencing."

The Walz Administration is still yet to appoint a full-time Cannabis Management Director, tasked with building the new state agency, along with establishing and regulating the adult-use cannabis market in Minnesota, after Erin DuPree resigned from the position one day after being appointed.

Following the resignation, an audit found the process leading up to her hiring failed to follow normal background check procedures and effectively communicate between departments.