Last Friday Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker announced the appointment of Danielle Perry as the state’s first Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer. While largely unknown in the cannabis industry, Perry, who is African American, has big fans in the urban agriculture world, where she earned a reputation as a keen thinker as the executive director of Growing Home, an urban farm based in Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood.
“She’s a very sharp person able to effectively navigate different sectors. With plenty of government and community outreach experience. She’s a warm-hearted, down to earth kind of person,” said State Rep. Sonya Harper, who also hails from Englewood and worked at Growing Home, although a few years before Perry arrived.
Although she still needs to be confirmed to the position by the Illinois State Senate, Perry is occupying a position originally intended for former State Sen. Toi Hutchinson, who was kept from the position by a state law that bars state legislators from occupying jobs they voted to create. Unable to appoint Hutchinson to the job he preferred for her, Gov. Pritzker then appointed Hutchinson as Senior Advisor to the Governor on Cannabis, a position she will continue to occupy, a state spokesman confirmed to Grown In yesterday.
Hutchinson played a major role in interviewing candidates for the Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer position, according to numerous legislators and cannabis lobbyists Grown In spoke to. Following Hutchinson’s flubbed appointment to the job, the position has remained vacant since its creation through legislation in June 2019.
With a J.D. from Howard University, Perry has taken turns at a series of high profile jobs, including on Capitol Hill, as a senior staffer at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and as director of communications for the Chicago Office of Inspector General. Raised on Chicago’s South Side, Perry’s is a graduate of Chicago’s Whitney Young High School.
“She’s good people. She’s smart, astute. She comes from a family that worked to break through employment barriers,” to become Black professionals, says Anton Seals, Jr., another urban agriculture advocate and cannabis license applicant. “She’s kind of a Huxtable kid for sure,” Seals said, referencing the 1980’s “Cosby Show” family that served as a role model for many upwardly-mobile Black American families.
“Her experience, including overseeing urban farms, combined with her demonstrated commitment to social equity will provide a great benefit to the Illinois cannabis program,” said Dina Rollman, Senior Vice President at Green Thumb Industries, who met Perry during her time at Growing House.
Now that Perry has been appointed to the position, she will be housed in the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation, which is responsible for cannabis dispensary oversight. It is not clear however, if she will also have direct oversight of the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Medicinal Plants, which oversees hemp and cannabis cultivation facilities. The director of that bureau, Jeff Cox, recently left that position and the Department has not named a new director, stating that the bureau was “currently in a transitional period.”
Other state agencies with cannabis functions include the Department of Public Health, which regulates the medical cannabis program, and the Illinois State Police, which regulates dispensary, transport, and cannabis cultivator security. State spokespeople have not responded to requests on how Perry’s new position will coordinate or oversee those functions either.