MS: What are your predictions for how New Jersey will implement the referendum and regulate adult-use cannabis in the state? What key provisions do you expect to see in New Jersey’s cannabis law?
RG: The ballot question seems relatively basic. It [asks if voters] approve of amending the Constitution to legalize a controlled form of marijuana for adults at least over 21 years old, and there would be a state commission created to oversee the state’s medical program and the new personal-use cannabis market.
My hope is that a state like New Jersey will not follow other states like Florida [and] New York, [which are] what I call “competitive licensing” states, which create these, for lack of a better word, very limited marketplaces that don’t allow for free market competition. It’s this merit-based application system, which lends itself to corruption and, frankly, the state getting sued every time.
My hope is that New Jersey will follow states like Colorado, California, Oregon [and] Washington that have more opened-up licensing, allowing for local jurisdictions to have some input in the time, place and manner of cannabis businesses within their jurisdictions, but not having the state have the ultimate control to limit the number of licenses or have a select few compete for these licenses. Those types of systems just don’t work, first of all. It’s very arbitrary to basically say, “Oh, here’s what you have to put in the application. Now you have to compete and we’re going to grade you.” Then the businesses that lose by .001 or the first loser are going to end up suing the state because they think it was arbitrary and they should have been granted a license. Not only that, it leaves all of these smaller mom-and-pop models behind, and it doesn’t give real people an opportunity to get into this marketplace.
My hope is that it will be a better system that what we’ve seen in other states. We’re now seeing other states that have done this competitive or merit-based licensing being sued—Florida, Maryland, Arkansas, Illinois is now a complete mess [and] Missouri has a whole bunch of people upset. I just don’t think that those systems work, and I wish states would avoid it.