Illinois Chief Cannabis Official Leaves Post to Head National Lobby Group | Government and Politics – Nach Welt

Illinois top marijuana officer Toi Hutchinson is leaving her state job to work for the national lobby group that led the state’s cannabis legalization push.

Hutchinson, who was Governor JB Pritzker’s senior advisor on cannabis control, stepped down to become President and CEO of the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), which authored much of Illinois’ legalization law.

Hutchinson was a Senator for Olympia Fields state from 2009 to 2019, representing the southern suburbs. As a legislator, she worked with the MPP to write and pass the law legalizing the sale and possession of recreational cannabis for adults, which went into effect in 2020.

Initially, Pritzker’s office announced that it had appointed her to be the regulator for cannabis regulation, informally known as Potzarin.



Then-Sen. Toi Hutchinson speaks on June 25, 2019 before Governor JB Pritzker signs law to legalize marijuana in Illinois from 2020.

Antonio Perez, Chicago Tribune

But giving her the job she created through a law she voted on could have been against the state constitution. The constitution prohibits members of the General Assembly from being appointed to a public office created by the state legislature during the same term of office.

When Hutchinson joined the administration in November 2019, he was serving as senior advisor to the governor on a salary of $ 220,000. Officials said she returned campaign donations received from the cannabis industry.

Instead, Danielle Perry was appointed as the cannabis regulatory oversight officer to report to Hutchinson.

Whatever its title, the legalization of cannabis under Hutchinson had mixed results.

Illinois was commended for becoming the first state to legalize cannabis through law, enacting provisions to eradicate low cannabis convictions, investing in poverty-stricken areas and high marijuana incarceration rates, and minority ownership of cannabis businesses to promote.

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But the law had fundamental flaws that turned the field against minority ownership. It gave the existing, white-dominated medical marijuana companies a year head start in recreational sales and a huge economies of scale in growing crops and owning pharmacies. In addition, the licensing process is secret and, as a result of the limitation on the number of growers and sellers, the Illinois market has experienced bottlenecks and high prices.

In addition, the implementation of the law was widely viewed as a disaster. After widespread complaints and litigation alleging that the licensing application evaluation process was unfair and favored wealthy and affiliated investors, the administration delayed licensing for more than a year.

To offset the problems created by the original law, state legislators passed a new law that expanded the number of new licenses.

But now two Cook County judges have delayed 185 new pharmacy approvals and 60 craft business approvals pending legal proceedings over the process, which could take months or more and further delay new entrepreneurs from entering the market.

When she announced her departure, Hutchinson emphasized her achievements in office.

“I am excited to join the MPP team where I will continue my years of efforts to develop and support cannabis legalization laws that focus on justice and repairing the damage of the past,” said Hutchinson in a press release. “We are incredibly proud of the hard work and lessons we learned in Illinois, the equity entrepreneur investing programs, community reinvestment programs, and resolving hundreds of thousands of arrests and criminal records.”

The Tribune did not receive a response to a request for an interview with Hutchinson.

Hutchinson’s departure comes shortly before a new state ethics law goes into effect on Jan. 1. A provision in the law prohibits law enforcement officials from holding positions that involve state lobbying for six months after leaving their government office. The Marijuana Policy Project, which had been registered for lobbying Illinois officials for but one year since 2004, went unregistered that year.

In response to the Tribune’s questions, Marijuana Policy Project spokeswoman Denise Tolliver wrote that the organization “focuses solely on states where cannabis has not been legalized and therefore will not operate in Illinois.”

In addition, she wrote, the state’s Office of Executive Inspector General determined that Hutchinson was not prevented from taking the opportunity

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Former State Senator Susan Garrett, who Hutchinson met from the General Assembly, chairs and co-founded the non-partisan, nonprofit Illinois Center for Politics. She saw no apparent conflict with Hutchinson’s move unless she was lobbying at the state level.

At a press conference in Little Village to announce a new round of funding for programs paid for from state marijuana tax revenue, Pritzker said it was “bittersweet” to see Hutchinson take on a role in the national organization.

“Toi has long been in great demand for her insights, her energy and her enthusiasm, because I was able to convince her beforehand to come on board and work with me, and I am genuinely sad that she left,” said Pritzker.

He called it “an immense honor to Illinois that our own Toi Hutchinson leads the indictment nationally and characterizes the fight for cannabis justice not just in our state but in all 50 states.”

“It is long time that federal law moved away from obscure cannabis criminalization and incarceration to a justice-based model,” said Pritzker.

Tribune reporter Jeremy Gorner contributed.

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