Agency: Colorado Marijuana Enforcement Division
Title: Senior director
Dominique Mendiola has been with the Marijuana Enforcement Division for about as long as recreational cannabis has been legal in Colorado. She began her career at the MED back in 2014, initially working with the Attorney General’s office, but quickly moved to working on legislation, rulemaking, communications and licensing-related work as the deputy director before being named senior director in May 2021.
“I got to witness a lot of how we evolved along with the industry,” she says. “It’s been quite the journey.”
Mendiola grew up in Texas before moving to Colorado for law school. After a brief legal career in Texas, Mendiola moved back to Colorado and shifted her focus to public service.
Today she heads the 130-person division that oversees one of the oldest and most stable cannabis industries in the country. She says the COVID-19 pandemic has helped the division become more nimble and responsive, both through emergency rules that helped keep the industry open and the use of technology to better provide data and services, like online applications.
Mendiola is the first person without a law enforcement background to lead the MED, as well as the first Mexican-American woman to lead the division. She has also overseen a social equity focus (often missing in the early legal states) that saw Colorado increase its number of minority licensees, meeting and surpassing its goal more than a month early.
Mendiola calls leading the MED “a once in a lifetime opportunity.”
“The work we do affects the livelihoods of Coloradans,” she says. “And it’s important that we don’t take that lightly.”