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Carney names first marijuana commissioner, changes cabinet

Katie Tabeling
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WILMINGTON — With a little more than a year left in his term, Gov. John Carney announced Monday morning a major shake-up in his cabinet, including naming the state’s first Marijuana Commissioner.

Robert Coupe Marijuana Commissioner

Robert Coupe | PHOTO COURTESY OF STATE OF DELAWARE

Robert Coupe is a longtime civil servant who has held posts in the Department of Justice, Corrections, Technology and Information. He has also served as secretary of the Department of Safety & Homeland Security in the early years of Carney’s first term. As the state’s Marijuana Commissioner, he will be tasked with organizing up an oversight office, outlining regulations and issuing 125 licenses to grow and sell cannabis.

“As I’ve said before, there are few people across our state who are more well-respected and more committed to serving the people of Delaware than Rob Coupe,” Carney said in a statement. “He’s exactly the right person to take on this new challenge.” 

For 27 years, Coupe worked in the Delaware State Police, namely commanding the criminal investigative unit for the agency’s operations in New Castle County. In 2009, he was appointed superintendent of the agency, overseeing  676 troopers and 270 civilian employees.

After retiring from the state police, Coupe was named commissioner of the state Department of Corrections under Gov. Jack Markell, where he remained for almost four years. When Carney was elected, he appointed Coupe to secretary of the Department of Safety & Homeland Security, which oversees eight divisions, two councils supporting persons with disabilities and the E911 Board.

In 2020, Coupe stepped down to become chief of staff to Attorney General Kathy Jennings and later chief of staff in the Department of Technology and Information (DTI), where he has worked since.

Carney has repeatedly voiced his concerns on marijuana legalization on the health of young Delawareans and other implications of driving under the influence. But the governor decided to “pocket approve” a law passed by the General Assembly this spring, as he thought “we spent far too much time focused on this issue.”

Carney’s goal from that point on was to ensure Delaware has a “robust regulatory system” that protects the most vulnerable people,  as well as avoiding the challenges seen in other states in setting up the system and rolling it out. Choosing a former top cop who has experience in top-level policy as well as working directly in the state Justice department may be his move to ensure the legal framework is designed to meet that goal.

Josette Manning | PHOTO COURTESY STATE OF DELAWARE

Other potential cabinet change-ups include the pending departure of Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Molly Magarik. Carney has tapped Delaware Department of Services for Children, Youth and Their Families (DSCYF) Secretary Josette Manning to take the post. 

Magarik, who will be departing for undisclosed reasons by July, served in the role since June 2020, amid the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic. Magarik, who served as deputy secretary before her confirmation, was noted to have quick response times in the early days of a global crisis.

 “I’ve worked with Molly for over two decades, and during that time I’ve relied on her relentless work ethic, her commitment to principle, and her command of the facts, to help me serve the people of our state,” Carney said.  “Her compassionate leadership and good judgment were never on greater display than when she took the helm of DHSS at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Molly’s service made us all better, and I’ll always be grateful for the many years she spent on our team.’

As Manning leaves the post she held since 2017, DSCYF Deputy Secretary Steve Yeatman is nominated to the position. Yeatman has 26 years served at the department, in roles such as Chief Policy Advisor and Deputy Director of the Division of Prevention and Behavioral Health Services.

“Josette’s time leading DSCYF has been marked by a steady, no-nonsense approach, in one of the most difficult jobs in state government,” the governor said. “She’s a problem-solver, and she doesn’t shy away from the most difficult challenges, and I know she’ll bring that same approach to leading our state’s largest agency … Steve has dedicated his career to DSCYF, and there’s no one better suited to take the reins.”

Finally, DTI Secretary Jason Clarke will be departing to take a role in the private sector. Greg Lane, the Chief Technology Officer at DTI since 2017, will be nominated to replace him. Clarke has served as the state’s top technology leader since 2021, at a time when the Carney administration pushed to expand broadband throughout Delaware.

Lane has previously served as chief information officer at the Chemours Company leadership roles at E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company. Before those roles, Lane was CIO for DuPont Crop Protection.

The Delaware State Senate is expected to hold confirmation hearings this month, although no date has been set.

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