A Q&A with Danielle Perry, Illinois’ Chief Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer
What are your responsibilities as Illinois’ Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer?
The CROO coordinates 13 agencies involved in cannabis regulation and taxation, overseeing all aspects of Illinois’ cannabis program, including: 1) industry diversification at all levels; 2) community reinvestment; and 3) repairing the direct harms of cannabis prohibition through criminal history record expungement.
How can the cannabis industry promote equity and diversity at all levels?
When people think about equity in cannabis, they usually think of equity in ownership. However, equity goes well beyond ownership. We need to work towards having boards of directors, employees, and vendors that are also diverse.
More broadly, when I think of equity in cannabis, I think about repairing the harm done by the failed war on drugs—not just to individuals but to communities as well. We have to continue to expunge records and pardon those who are eligible. We must ensure that our legislature is constantly evaluating how we can expand that eligibility to reach all those who suffered during criminalization. Finally, Illinois was the first state in the country to reserve a portion of cannabis tax revenue for reinvestment in communities across the state. We have seen other states who have legalized after us do the same thing. I think reinvestment is a huge part of equity that doesn’t get talked about nearly enough.
What do you see as your biggest challenge and opportunity in the year ahead?
Misinformation is one of our biggest hurdles. To combat misinformation and increase transparency, my office is working to create a consolidated website where people can get correct information and resources. Further, I want to do a better job telling our story. What organizations are receiving grant funds and what are they doing in the community? People need to know how this impacting them. I believe we can do a much better job conducting outreach in the community about what we have done and engaging people on how to make things better for everyone.
On a personal note, what book or series have you enjoyed the most this year?
Though I’m sure you are looking for a podcast or book series, I’m completely captivated by a television series called 61st Street on AMC right now. It is a show that hits on so much of the work we do and is centered around the South Side of Chicago.