The motion to change the June decision passed 3-1, with Commissioner Charles Barker voting no. Barker, often the lone ‘no’ vote, defended the initial one-year timeline as a move that would have helped people most harmed by marijuana prohibition. He emphasized that New Jersey’s marijuana legalization law is “about righting the wrongs of the failed drug war, period, hard stop.”
Chairwoman Dianne Houenou argued Black and brown business owners would have been shut out if the commission retained the one-year priority period.
“I think it is well-intentioned, though not quite hitting the mark, to exclude diversely owned businesses from being able to submit applications to the CRC in a timely manner that will allow them to be able to get up and running,” Houenou said.
Tiyahnn Bryant, founder of Roll Up Life, who is seeking approval for delivery applications, said he’s starting his business in his hometown of East Orange. Half of the city qualifies within the social equity criteria, and his business is one building away from the border carved out as an economically disadvantaged area, Bryant said.
“We’re understanding that we need to help people in the social equity lane,” he said, “but do we have to do that in spite of companies like mine, where the only thing that doesn’t qualify me or make me a social equity company is I don’t live next door, or I wasn’t arrested?”
Delgado said stories like Bryant’s show that the cannabis marketplace should not be limited. Barker responded that people speaking at the meetings don’t reflect the entire industry. Barker also disputed Houenou’s comments, saying the one-year time period approved in June hadn’t been put into practice, so it’s unfair to say it wouldn’t have worked.