The end of the beginning: Fraker retires from position as Missouri cannabis program director
Effective today, February 1, Deputy Director Amy Moore will begin to serve as Interim Director of the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services Division of Cannabis Regulation.
Yesterday, Lyndall Fraker walked outside the doors of his office at the Missouri Department of Health and Human Services and began the two-hour drive back home to Marshfield for the last time.
After more than a decade of service to the State of Missouri, Fraker retired from his current position as Director of the Division of Cannabis Regulation.
Fraker had made clear late last year his desire to take a step back from the Director position. It was expected that he would take on a new position within the Division of Cannabis Regulation, focusing on outreach and continuing to promote the industry and relationships that he had stewarded for the last three years.
While the Department continued to seek a viable replacement, he stayed on to continue in his position – but as the search relaunched, Fraker elected to instead focus on family and spending less time on the road.
“I am in that chapter of life where I want to spend more time with my family and friends in Marshfield. With recreational marijuana passing and the changes occurring with the increase in our division, now seemed like the right time since I’ve reached the age of early retirement,” he said.
Fraker was selected to serve as the first Director of Missouri’s marijuana regulatory body, being tasked with guiding the formerly named Section for Medical Marijuana Regulation through rule promulgation and the award and start-up of more than 400 licensed medical marijuana operators in the state.
“Starting a new government program is one of the most difficult jobs in public service. It essentially requires building an airplane while at the same time flying it. Looking back, Director Fraker was precisely the statesman Missouri needed for this critical role. We are thrilled he is now able to go back to his local community, knowing he not only moved heaven and earth to get this historic program off the ground but also made a real and lasting difference for hundreds of thousands of Missourians and Missouri’s newest industry.” Andrew Mullins, Executive Director, MoCannTrade.
The Department was not without controversy during Fraker’s tenure and faced many obstacles along the way including a pandemic, multiple leadership changes at DHSS’ top position, and a bevy of lawsuits and litigation, as well as more than 800 appeals by failed licensing applicants. Still, Fraker was never one to shy away from an explanation or open dialogue.
“Director Fraker was always the consummate professional – and he pioneered an industry that Missourians had never experienced. He was always kind, knowledgeable, and greeted everyone with a smile on his face. I am sad to see him go, as I believe he was a tremendous leader for our Industry,” Susan Griffith, CEO, CAMP Cannabis.
Fraker promoted an internal culture based on access and interaction. From open town halls prior to rulemaking, to open advisory board meetings during rule promulgation, through to visiting and interacting with operators and applicants around the state during his tenure, Fraker and his team fostered an atmosphere built on feedback and cooperation. As a result, Missouri’s cannabis regulators are widely considered the most accessible and communicative in the cannabis space, a great deal of which is due to Fraker’s leadership style and approach to actively engaging patients and operators.
“I have to say that I have really enjoyed working with Lyndall and his team over the years. The DHSS and department leaders understood that this was a new industry for them and were open to taking advice from people who have dedicated their entire career to this field. I have not operated in a state like Missouri where the connections to the regulating body were personal. It has been a great change of pace to have a closer relationship with the regulating body and the ability to play more of a role in shaping the Missouri Cannabis Industry. We wish Lyndall the best of luck on his future endeavors,” Adolphus A. Busch V, CEO, Teal Cannabis.
“Lyndall was a tremendous leader with exceptional communication with license holders. He helped make our relationship with the DHSS feel like a true partnership rather than an informal dealing with an enforcement agency. We wish him the best in his new path and know he’s left the agency in a great place for this historic transition to adult use,” David Craig, VP of Marketing, Illicit.
Fraker was not the expected or obvious choice to lead the oversight of Missouri’s marijuana industry after legalization.
A building contractor and real estate developer, with nearly two decades spent working in management for Walmart, he had previously served as Webster County Northern Commissioner. Marijuana was legalized at the end of 2018; Fraker was terming out of the House after spending eight years in the lower chamber of the Missouri legislature when he was asked to lead the state’s newest regulatory body.
Fraker was tasked to create and execute a division of authority with virtually no budget and no existing operators or staff with any experience and only a limited amount of knowledge available concerning the cannabis plant – and even less about how to properly regulate its legalization.
Each prior state was a case study of dos and don’ts, a road map of pitfalls and successes, but no single state had been able to effectively implement a medical marijuana program that emphasized a balance between access and regulation with economic opportunity and industry growth.
“I admit, when Lyndall Fraker was first announced as the Director of the new medical marijuana program, some of us weren’t sure if a former legislator and Walmart retail exec, who didn’t seem to care much about cannabis, was the right fit. But it didn’t take long to recognize Lyndall’s love for Missouri and his honest concern for Missourians’ health and safety,” Mullins said.
“As a regulator, Director Fraker was fair, comprehensive, and results-oriented. But what really won everyone over was his warmth, earnest passion for this state, the trust he placed in his staff, and the humility and statesman-like approach he brought to the job each and every day. A 2019 MU study predicted there would be just 26,000 Missouri medical marijuana patients by 2022. Because of the success and popularity of the program, Missouri surpassed 200,000 active patients in 2022. This simply would not have happened without the leadership of Lyndall Fraker,” Mullins concluded.
“From the very beginning, Lyndall always did the right thing. While it was certainly exciting for everybody at the very beginning, he was in a tough spot. He had to deal with the complexities of licenses being awarded, challenges and attacks from those who were not awarded licenses, political pressure from the legislature, who had its own set of expectations, but then ultimately, they needed to roll out the program under constitutional law,” John Pennington, CEO, Proper Brands said. “I believe and know that Lyndall approached his role with grace and integrity and he was the right man for the job. I enjoyed getting to know him as a person.
“I believe when Lyndall started his role he likely was not a big fan of cannabis in general and likely not for political reasons, but probably merely personal reasons. Over the course of the last few years, I believe he got to know the true medical benefits of cannabis and he saw that the operators and patients were real people, with similar values.
“Lyndall will certainly be missed, but he’ll forever have an integral role in Missouri Cannabis history, and likely beyond. Thank you, Lyndall,” Pennington concluded.
In the days leading up to his departure, Greenway spoke to Fraker asking to recount the experience of helming Missouri’s marijuana program from its inception.
Is this the end of your career in public service?
Yes, I think that it is. I’m ready to be home with my family after 12 years of serving the state.
Under what circumstances, if any, would you consider returning to DCR or another form of public service?
Right now that wouldn’t be on my radar. However, I’ve learned to never say never. Life does change constantly.
Let’s talk about the things you’re proudest of during your tenure with DHSS and SMMR. Can you give us a few highlights of the program’s successes under your leadership?
Putting together the very best team to lead Missouri’s newest regulatory agency.
Always leaning on truth and honesty while leading the medical program all the way through until the recent addition of recreational marijuana.
Never wavering from our commitment to have a safe, well-regulated industry while building a program and never wavering from our plan.
I know you’re not generally one to tout your own successes, but what would you say are your biggest contributions or successes in your time at SMMR?
Helping Missourians to understand this previously illegal product and the benefits that it could provide patients if used correctly.
Watching the change in stigma and perception of marijuana yet continuing to make sure all citizens understand the positive and negative effects of its use.
I am proud of our operators, their facilities and the professional way they are serving Missouri’s citizens.
How do you feel the Department, as well as the cannabis industry as a whole, has changed since you took the Director position?
We have gone from nothing to a well-operated, respected agency and have many Missourians supporting what we are trying to do.
We have been recognized as one of the best programs in the United States and that makes me very proud of our team.
Which areas of the cannabis industry could be improved, and how?
We need more education to the general public on the effects of marijuana and we should continue to stress how important it is that citizens under 21 shouldn’t use marijuana unless it’s part of an alternative medical plan overseen by their physician.
What was the best part of your job?
Getting to meet and know so many new people that are now my friends.
What can DCR improve on as it moves forward to adult use?
Become more efficient and continue to be good financial stewards of the funds that the consumers are generating that will help the various programs as spelled out in Article 14 of the Missouri Constitution.
Imagine you are leaving a note with a few tips and tricks to your successor, what does it say?
Follow the law as supported by the voters and always stay true to yourself and others. Support your team and help them to have a good reason to come to work every day to get the job done.
Fraker concluded our conversation by saying, “I would like to thank the citizens of our great State for the opportunity to serve these last 12 years. I feel extremely fortunate that the confidence placed in me to lead this program has been successful and I feel like we’ve accomplished what we’ve set out to do.”
He referenced an anonymous quote as his final thought.
“Don’t get mad at the naysayers.
Don’t hate the energy vampires.
Instead, realize that without them you wouldn’t be as strong.
If you never got sick, you wouldn’t develop a strong immune system.
Negative people make you more resilient, wiser, and better.”
During Fraker’s tenure, the Missouri medical marijuana market grew from nonexistent to a thriving industry bringing in more than $600 million worth of medical marijuana since October 17, 2020. The state has seen more than 200,000 patients become certified for the use of medical marijuana. In November, Missourians approved a constitutional amendment legalizing adult use cannabis. Possession of cannabis for adults over age 21 became legal in December 2022 and retail sales are set to begin next week.