Since 2015, Ed has operated a black market weed shop directly across from City Hall in Trenton. He opened the shop to protest to what he saw as unjust marijuana laws. And now, even though he could apply for a legal license, he doesn’t have faith in the state to equitably give access to potential Black sellers.
For Sam Delgado, who was elected vice chair, the memory at the front of his mind when accepting the job was his own 1975 arrest for marijuana possession in upstate New York.
For Krista Nash, it was helping prisoners re-enter society while working as a social worker: "These are men and women that have been directly impacted by the war on drugs," she said. "I was a witness to the numerous barriers they faced as they tried to reintegrate back to the community."
It is “no small task,” commission Chairwomen Dianna Houenou said during Monday’s inaugural meeting, adding that New Jersey can provide the nation a model for legalization “by applying the values of safety and equity.”
In an earlier interview with NJ Spotlight News, Houenou promised to “instill a culture where every decision we make is through the lens of equity.”
And the clock is ticking.
“Now, this will take time,” Houenou cautioned. “It will take us several weeks before we develop procedures to guide our operations and hire full-time staff.”
The five-member commission met remotely, kicking off what Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has said could be a six-month period until recreational marijuana hits the market.
Chair Diana Houenou said it will take several weeks for staff to be hired and procedures to be developed.
The commission voted to confirm commissioner Sam Delgado, a former Verizon executive, as vice chair.
The CRC is set to meet at 2 p.m. Monday, where its five members will begin the process of overseeing legal weed, medical marijuana and the industries expected to grow around them.
The agenda for the meeting, held virtually, is light. CRC chairwoman Dianna Houneou and executive director Jeff Brown will make remarks. The panel will elect a vice chair. They will adopt an official logo and set a meeting schedule.
The five members of the CRC are:
The Cannabis Regulatory Commission will hold its first meeting April 12, marking the official launch of a powerful state agency that will be tasked with rulemaking and licensing for New Jersey’s adult use industry.
Gov. Phil Murphy filed the appointments of all five members on Wednesday, according to a release put out by the administration Thursday morning.
“This will be the first meeting of many as we put the values of equity and safety into practice in regulating this new industry,” CRC Chair Dianna Houenou said in a statement.
Dianna Houenou has a vision for New Jersey’s forthcoming cannabis industry.
Houenou, a senior policy advisor and associate counsel for Governor Phil Murphy, is the incoming chair of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission. She foresees an industry “that embodies both equity and integrity.” Further, she says, “I hope to instill in the commission a culture of doing work through an equity lens and encouraging social responsibility among business owners and operators. ”
The new legal industry
Possession of six ounces or less of marijuana — and using it on private property — is now decriminalized in New Jersey for people ages 21 and up. That means you can’t be criminally charged for it.
So far though, it still isn’t technically legal to buy or sell recreational marijuana, and won’t be until state officials write regulations and award licenses to the businesses that will make up the new legal market.
Diversity and Comprehensive Representation
While there is diversity on the commission, as it contains a Latinx man and woman, a white man and woman, and a Black woman, there is the missing component of a Black man, and this is noteworthy because of what Black men can bring to the cannabis conversation.
A letter obtained by Gothamist/WNYC shows the civil rights organization's lawyer demanding that the state reveal the backgrounds of the five appointed commission members.