But there’s also bad news: when it comes to ensuring equity in the growing cannabis market in New Jersey, the gap is wide between promises made and promises delivered. A key policy goal touted by the state has been its commitment to creating a cannabis industry that benefits communities that have historically faced the disproportionate brunt of the war on drugs — mainly low income Black and Latino communities.
Colia Best has the ambition and drive to get his cannabis business off the ground.
What’s missing is where to put it.
Best wants to have a property in hand to increase his chances of securing a retail microbusiness license with the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission. He’s been searching within a 30-mile radius of where he currently lives in Sicklerville, as far south as Atlantic City, and as far north as Burlington City since February.
Still no takers. He’s left messages with local officials. Many don’t call him back.
Black communities are far too familiar with being excluded from the table. This time around we are securing our own priority seating. The statistics are clear. Between 2010-2019, New Jersey spent 11.6 billion dollars enforcing the drug war. New Jersey arrests more people for marijuana than almost any other state. Black people are three to four times more likely to be arrested than whites for marijuana possession despite similar rates of use. The numbers don’t lie, but they only tell half of the story.
The regulators tasked with launching New Jersey’s recreational marijuana market say they’re working to ensure multi-state operators and deep-pocketed out-of-towners don’t corner the cannabis market here.
Dianna Houenou chairs the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), a state agency created to establish industry standards after voters gave lawmakers the go-ahead to legalize recreational weed last February.
Laws passed in the last year legalizing cannabis in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut were designed in part to remedy wrongs within a criminal justice system that disproportionately ensnares Black and Latino people.
And acquiring generational wealth is only part of the motivation for Ms. White and her family as they begin the slow and thorny process of establishing a business from scratch in a brand-new market.
“This report is critical to New Jersey setting a model similar to other states in recognizing that all people in the state are not the same, and by legalizing cannabis, its impact on different communities is going to vary,” said Charles Menifield, dean of Rutgers University-Newark School of Public Affairs and Administration and the study’s principal investigator.
The goal is to use the data for comparative analysis over time to help shape state policy. "This is literally a baseline report of what we should be looking at and where we are now,’” said Menifield.
The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission had touted on Oct. 15 how diverse the businesses being awarded vertically integrated and medical cannabis licenses are.
Except most, if not all, of those minority license winners were white women. In the following days, applicants of color would go on to claim that they had not received accurate points for being “minority” applicants in the scoring and award process.
Al Harrington was one of those Black-owned businesses.
On Monday evening, Mayor Michael Venezia and the Township Council met to discuss a wide range of issues and proposals for Bloomfield, with retail cannabis sales and businesses taking center stage.
Social justice advocates in New Jersey are flocking together to hold a special, free expungement clinic at Doubletree by Hilton Penn Station Hotel in Newark.
The clinic will be held on Tuesday, September 14 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time. Those who attend will get free support on how to expunge low-level cannabis convictions now that cannabis is legal in the state.
What was once considered a stain on his record is now proving to be a blessing in disguise for Somerset resident Alex Stone, in the newly established recreational cannabis market in New Jersey.
“Upon getting my felony [for possession], my wife left me, I lost my kids — arguably I was a millionaire and I lost everything,” Stone told PIX11.
Newly adopted regulations released this week give priority to applicants with past cannabis-related criminal offenses, among other criteria.
It’s now opening a door to opportunity in the Garden State for the entrepreneur.