Illinois has a new top cannabis regulator following an appointment from Gov. J.B. Pritzker on Monday.
Pritzker announced that Erin A. Johnson will now serve as the state’s Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer. Johnson replaces Danielle Perry, who left the role earlier this year.
“Erin Johnson’s commitment to equity will serve Illinois well as she takes the reins as the state’s Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer,” Pritzker, a Democrat, said in a statement on Monday. “From serving as the Chief of Staff at the Illinois Department of Juvenile Justice to working as Associate General Counsel and Chief Diversity Officer, Erin has the experience, education, and expertise to thrive in this role while advancing cannabis equity throughout Illinois. I can think of no better person than Erin to serve as our Cannabis Regulation Oversight Officer and I wish her all the best in this new position.”
The Cannabis Regulation Oversight Office is “a part of the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation and is responsible for coordinating with numerous state agencies to direct the regulation and taxation of Illinois’ cannabis industry,” according to the governor’s office.
“This work is done to ensure Illinois’ social equity goals are met through expungements, community reinvestment, and the diversification of the state’s cannabis industry,” said the press release from Pritzker’s office.
Johnson’s appointment must be confirmed by the Illinois state Senate.
“I am incredibly thankful to Governor Pritzker for trusting me to lead the administration’s cannabis regulation efforts,” Johnson said in Monday’s press release. “Together we will move Illinois forward and continue to build a cannabis industry that is driven by social equity, providing opportunities and righting generations of wrongs.”
Pritzker, who won re-election earlier this month, signed the bill that legalized recreational cannabis in Illinois in the summer of 2019. In the three years since, the governor has made the new adult-use marijuana program a centerpiece of his tenure.
Earlier this month, Pritzker announced that the state was earmarking $8.75 million in loans to “all conditionally-approved social equity loan applicants in order to provide immediate access to capital.”
“Equity has always been at the core of our cannabis legalization process. It’s why we expunged hundreds of thousands [of] low-level cannabis charges and instituted the Cannabis Social Equity Loan Program. But I know that if we want to create a truly equitable cannabis industry in Illinois, we must give our business owners the resources they need to grow—both figuratively and literally,” said Pritzker. “That’s why we are launching this Direct Forgivable Loan Program to provide a much-needed jumpstart for social equity applicants who’ve faced hurdles in pursuit of capital funding. This $8.75 million will help our social equity licensees open their doors for business—a major step towards creating a prosperous cannabis industry here in Illinois.”
The governor’s office explained that the program “is a first-of-its-kind program that launched in the summer of 2021 with the goal of providing low-interest loans to social equity licensees through a partnership with lending institutions,” and that participants in the program “have encountered significant delays in receiving capital through financial institutions due to the complexities of navigating a new industry that remains illegal under federal law, as well as institutions’ fiduciary, regulatory responsibilities and underwriting standards that are set independent of the program.”
“The new Direct Forgivable Loan Program fully financed by the State offers funding for all eligible program participants upon the submission of required documentation,” Pritzker’s office explained. “Because [the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity] has already received significant documentation from program participants, the additional documentation requirements for a direct forgivable loan are minimal to allow for prompt disbursal of funds. The forgivable loan has an 18-month grace period with no payments or interest accrued to provide businesses with flexibility.”