Happy post-election Thursday, everyone!
The New Jersey cannabis community dodged a major setback this week after Gov. Phil Murphy was declared winner of the gubernatorial race late Wednesday.
Yesterday morning, I was talking to some of the state’s power players about the possibility of a Jack Ciattarelli administration. The mood was grim, to say the least. As we first reported here, the Republican candidate was against legalization and would have slowed the adult-use market and hampered the medical program, the way Gov. Christie did during his eight years in office. If elected, he could have exerted his influence on the regulatory commission, even replaced its executive director with one of his Reefer Madness cronies.
Remember what his spokesperson told us?
“Jack believes that New Jersey voters were misled on the marijuana referendum, evidenced by the vast majority of New Jersey municipalities rejecting the idea of locating dispensaries in their community,”
Some say Murphy has been hobbled by the close call, considering pollsters (once again, ignoring Trump loyalists) were wrong about how big his lead was in the polls. For now, Murphy can build on his legacy that the medical program expanded and legalization happened under his watch. That the CRC remains committed to building a space where equity is a priority will always be far better than having a governor who doesn’t even seem to believe in its importance.
Meanwhile, state Senate President Steve Sweeney ousted from his seat, Trenton insiders have suggested Sen. Nick Scutari — the author of the legalization bill — is in the running to take over the gavel.
So…we didn’t have to pivot to dedicate this issue to how the cannabis space would work under Ciattarelli (at least for now, as he’s taking a page from Trump and not conceding). We’re looking forward by first looking at the past.
Gov. Phil Murphy celebrates his reelection victory yesterday at the Grand Arcade at the Pavilion in Asbury Park after narrowly defeating Republican Jack Ciattarelli. (Michael Mancuso | NJ Advance Media)
It’s been a year since we voted to legalize it, how do we measure up with other states that did the same? Amanda Hoover gives a state-by-state analysis.
Jelani Gibson was in New York City today to hear what the Empire State’s cannabis czar has to say about the cannabis market place across the Hudson with a few takeaways from his day at the CWCBExpo.
Jonathan Salant follows up with Sen. Cory Booker on how he views cannabis legislation passing in D.C. And Sue Livio talks to health experts about a new study that shows teens use of vapes has skyrocketed.
I spoke to Akele Parnell of Lantern, the e-commerce company that wants to host your cannabis products for sale after the market opens, about entering the New Jersey space — social equity at the forefront.
I’m happy to announce Lantern is our social equity partner for our upcoming Cannabis Career Fair & Business Expo at Stockton University on Nov. 17, in collaboration with the New Jersey CannaBusiness Assn. and Stockton. They’re sponsoring 25 people who have been impacted by the drug war to attend. They’ll also get annual subscription of this publication, and an annual membership with the NJCBA.
Filling in for Jelani this week, as he’s still in the City. See you down the road…
— Enrique Lavin
NJ Cannabis Insider file photo
It’s been a year since New Jersey and several other states approved ballot questions to legalize either adult-use or medical marijuana.
Perhaps no roads to legalization were more closely watched or dramatic than our own in the Garden State. But I wanted to check in this week to see how those other states are getting along in standing up their own industries.
Arizona has set up a market in record time. But others have seen legal challenges and stalled state Legislatures (sound familiar?) impede their progress. While it’s looking less and less likely that New Jersey will have legal sales by February 2022, we could still beat some states that legalized on the ballot last November to opening dispensary doors.
This state saw a fast turnaround, beginning sales in January. Arizona’s Department of Health Services was quick to draft regulations, and began accepting and awarding licenses just after.
According to data on Weedmaps, Arizona has more than 30 adult-use dispensaries operating currently, and the state has licensed dozens more. But they are highly concentrated between Flagstaff and Phoenix.
Arizona’s law allows for possession of one ounce, but also for homegrow of up to six plants.
Medical dispensaries here have a date of Jan. 1, 2022 to begin selling adult-use cannabis. The state passed its enabling legislation in May. While that’s later than New Jersey, it seems Montana could still get sales started sooner.
But until then, residents can grow up to four plants at home.
Still, the state is limiting its industry, allowing only medical operators through mid-2023. Weedmaps shows more than 50 medical dispensaries in the state.
This state made history last year when voters simultaneously legalized medical and adult-use cannabis on the ballot. But there’s been a big roadblock since, with a state judge ruling the process by which voters legalized marijuana unconstitutional.
Advocates have issued some challenges to the ruling, but they’re also keeping an eye on next year’s election, and could put the issue before voters a second time.
Medical cannabis did go through. The state has released regulations and opened up applications last month.
Voters here approved only medical marijuana, and it’s taken time for lawmakers to get that going. Legislators had drafted a bill in September, and would have needed a special session called to get it approved.
The governor has said he wants to see stricter limits on the amount of marijuana patients can buy, as well as THC limits, before he agrees to anything.
— Amanda Hoover | NJ.com
NJ Cannabis Insider file photo
Takeaways from the CWCBE in NYC this week
I pulled up to the CWCBExpo at the Javits Convention Center to check in on New York state’s key players in the cannabis space. Here’s some of my key takeaways from speeches and some conversations I had with local power players.
New York wants to do equity and is being hailed as one of the best in the market.
Tremaine Wright, chair of the New York State Cannabis Control Board, had strong words at the expo on how the state wanted to meet those high expectations during her keynote speech today.
“We are about to create the most equitable cannabis program in the country,” she said. “New York’s future is about equity and fairness and New York’s future begins now.”
A fear that the market will be dominated by big business was also addressed.
“If we were to allow huge corporations to come into our diverse state and dominate the cannabis industry, it would just be another way to undermine oppressed communities,” she said.
“New York is ready to write a new chapter into history — we are ready to make cannabis inclusive,” Wright said.
For those looking at New York, thus far, the Cannabis Control Board is going to take a more hands on approach.
The rhetoric from the commission has been one that envisions a small business space that’s proactively protected from predatory practices with an emphasis on local operators.
With most markets initially bolstered and expanded with large operators, keeping tabs on how New York meets that promise will be key.
In a separate interview with NJ Cannabis Insider, Wright also explained some of the protections the board had in place.
“We cannot transfer social equity licenses within the first two years, if it is resold it must be resold to another equity applicant,” she said.
Finding the capital to help these businesses thrive is also on the board’s mind.
“We’re trying to establish a fund to meet the needs of capital,” Wright said. “That is one of the hardest challenges and it’s also the reason why a lot of applicants and licensees enter into obligations and agreements that may not be in their best interest.”
Pick up, drop off, find a place
If there’s one thing New Yorkers like, it’s delivery. One thing that multiple vendors at the fair were looking toward was delivery and real estate. New York has a notoriously high and cutthroat market.
Helping vulnerable and small businesses starting out is going to be key, but the ones who just may rule the game could end up being whoever figures out how New Yorkers get their weed from borough to borough.
With that being said, a lot of companies are also afraid of behemoths like Amazon, Uber and Lyft taking over when things get legalized. Seeing how New York manages the demand for small businesses to thrive and the scale at which New Yorkers want services will be critical to the economics of the space.
Election Season, justice and civil rights
The New York Gubernatorial is in 2022 and cannabis will definitely be on the campaign trail.
Two high profile front runners, Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul and New York Attorney General Letitia James have connections to the space.
James was one of the keynote speakers at the annual cannabis parade in New York City. There, she positioned the cannabis legislation as an issue of civil rights and economic justice.
It was a bold proclamation, and is the same one that the Hochul administration is making.
Then there’s the city of New York City itself.
With a new moderate mayor in town, how will Eric Adams do? On one end he did support the bill. Whether his stances align with the more progressive direction of the cannabis law and what the governor’s office wants — will be something to see.
— Jelani Gibson
Akele Parnell is head of social equity partnerships at Massachusetts-based Lantern, where he leads the company strategies and thinking around advancing equity in the cannabis marketplace through government affairs and regulatory work. Lantern is our social equity partner for the Nov. 17 Cannabis Career Fair & Business Expo at Stockton University, co-hosted in collaboration with the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association and Stockton. This interview was edited for clarity. Find him on LinkedIn.
Q: Tell us about Lantern, what it does.
A: Yeah, absolutely. So the leading on-demand cannabis e-commerce marketplace and home delivery platform in the U.S. It was originally founded by Drizzly, which is the leading on-demand alcohol e-commerce marketplace in home-delivery platforms. It was just acquired by Uber (in February for about $1.1 billion) and then we spun out.
Q: Are you applying for a license to operate?
A: We are not competing for any licenses, at least for right now. Lantern is a tech company, so we’re not plant-touching, it doesn’t require any licenses. We’re a third-party platform. Essentially, we provide the tech and the marketing and logistics. Our business model is premised on bringing in Black and brown, and social equity businesses. So it’s for delivery couriers, potential retailers and other businesses in the space.
Q: You just entered the New Jersey space with a social equity incubator program.
A: It’s our fourth incubator program, and it’s called the New Jersey Cannabis Project.
It’s a business incubator that’ll provide social equity entrepreneurs with the skills, knowledge, and resources needed to succeed and become leaders in the emerging New Jersey cannabis marketplace. The real goal is to advance social equity — we’re passionate about that. And that’s integral to who we are.
Q: What do you look for in potential incubator participants?
A: We want social equity applicants, ones who are diverse or have been impacted by the War on Drugs. Folks that really have a passion to be in the industry — and, you know, this industry is really tough. There’s a ton of obstacles, particularly for Black and brown entrepreneurs, particularly for folks that come from communities harmed by the war on drugs. So, we look for that passion and desire to push through beyond those obstacles. They’ve done their homework, and will invest the time. We also look at folks who have good experience in other industries that can be transferable to this one. A base level of business acumen.
Q: Policy-wise, what are you looking at in New Jersey? What key things are you looking for from the CRC or even the state as it prepares to open the market?
A: We want to see a highly transparent application process with as much supports and guidance for social equity businesses as possible. We are always really interested in how social-equity programs are crafted and defined in the licensing and the scoring process. Hopefully something that could happen sooner rather than later, but we also know that sometimes it’s just as important to get things right. Sometimes it’s better to just move slower.
— Enrique Lavin
2019 Associated Press file photo
Troubling trend: Vaping goes way up among teens
The number of teens in America and Canada who vape cannabis has doubled in recent years, and there is evidence they prefer to use infused oil that delivers a much stronger high, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found.
Medical and adolescent mental health experts in New Jersey who reviewed the study say this troubling trend must be combated by a clear message, taught in schools and inscribed on packaging labels, that emphasizes how marijuana harms the developing brain.
“I am concerned that this is evidence already that “the horse is out of the barn” with adolescent cannabis use and we adults have provided the methods, the means, and the message to teens to go riding the horse into the sunset,” said John Calvin Chatlos, a psychiatry professor with
Rutgers University Behavioral Health Care. “Our eagerness to legalize cannabis for adults, for whatever reasons, has blinded us to the potential impact on vulnerable populations of adolescents and young adults.”
I believe at this time there is only one solution,” said Chatlos, who as a trainer for employees who work with kids in the state’s Children System of Care, will be developing a curriculum on this issue. “Everyone, everywhere nationally must give the same message with accurate information: ‘an adolescent brain is not the same as an adult brain’ and ‘cannabis in an adolescent brain can be very dangerous.’ “
Nicotine vaping increased 13-fold among middle school and high school students from 2011 and 2018, the authors noted in their Oct. 25 article “Prevalence in Adolescent Cannabis Vaping.”
The Australian researchers reviewed 17 surveys of tobacco and drug use in the United States and Canada capturing nearly 200,000 teens and young adults over the last decade and found vaping cannabis oil and dried flower also took off.
‘Lifetime” marijuana use rose from 6.1% in 2013-2016 to 13.6% in 2019-2020 and use in the past 12 months rose from 7.2% in 2017-2018 to 13.2% in 2019-2020, according to the article.
Three of the surveys revealed a rise in the popularity of vaping cannabis concentrates since 2017, the study said.
Vaping is perceived as a safer form of transmission because the device was “initially designed to deliver nicotine as a tobacco cigarette substitute (eg, electronic cigarettes,” the study said.
But when used by teens and young adults as the delivery system for cannabis, safety plummets, Lewis Nelson, a medical toxicologist and a professor and chair of Emergency Medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.
“It’s no surprise — all you have to do is watch the mass media and look around at the commercially available products. Cannabis vaping has become extremely popular,” Nelson said.
“You don’t get the combustion products when you vape,” said Nelson, who is chief of Emergency Medicine at University Hospital in Newark. There might be some safety factors there. “But we see problems. People will be more free to use it and in large amounts.”
There is indisputable research that shows that because the brain continues to develop through age 25, routine use of marijuana can impair brain function and may cause psychiatric conditions.
Theodore Petti, a professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at the Rutgers-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, urges state policymakers and lawmakers to limit the potency of cannabis products that are sold in New Jersey’s future market. It’s likely these products will fall into the hands of people under 21, and the dangers are real, he said.
“The higher the level the greater the damage to the brain and other organs and the greater the probability of the youth developing a cannabis use disorder including what we used to call addiction,” Petti said.
He also wants to see explicit labels on cannabis products.
State regulators “need to regulate the THC levels in edibles if legalized and concentrated products to 10% unless they contain graphics and wording indicating the danger of THC concentration has on their developing brain,” Petti said. “They should be warned about driving or use of heavy machinery, including hours after use of edibles.”
A JAMA Pediatrics study in March found 11% of teens were dependent on marijuana a year after trying it.
The health class curriculum should devote more time to explaining the truth about cannabis to students who may not understand how the drug is more harmful to them, as states like New Jersey create a legal market.
“Messaging is very tricky in the public health world. You tell people it’s dangerous, it is interpreted as something they want to do. Some people feel talking about it legitimizes it,” he said.
“Education and knowledge is a good thing… It’s better to teach about these things rather than learn it for themselves,” Nelson said.
— Susan K. Livio | NJ.com
Dan Grim is co-founder and CEO of Good Stuff Beverages out of California who is a southern Jersey native. In this interview he talks about why beverages are a fast growing market, why they present a unique experience opportunity and what makes those products stand out from the rest. Answers edited for length and clarity. Find him on LinkedIn.
Q: Growing up in southern Jersey and seeing the wider cannabis space, how does that influence the approach to your beverages?
A: Flower is dominant, but it won’t be forever. People want alternatives to flower. The future isn’t in burning plant matter and bringing it into your lungs. There’s a slow shift toward edibles and other products.
It’s growing. You don’t ruminate over a brownie, beverages are just so cultural. When we want to have an intoxicant we use beverages. When we want to ruminate over a fine wine, that’s beverages. So it’s picking up everywhere.
What’s happening right now in beverages for California is that technology and the advent of the contract manufacturer in that space has created an opportunity to lower the cost. That has made the value segment of beverages very hot right now. As beverages are expanding, it’s a tremendous opportunity.
Q: How did the idea come about?
A: We drink socially, we drink culturally, we drink beer, wine, spirits, it just made sense that eventually people would want their cannabis in a beverage format and that led me to say ‘well this sounds like a profitable, fun, fulfilling adventure.’ I threw myself into creating cannabis beverages and I’ve been a bootstrap entrepreneur.
This is a brand that was made to answer the objections about the product in our industry for our segment. Flavor’s important, but most cannabis beverages don’t taste very good. The objections people have to them — ‘these products taste chemically, taste syrupy or they taste like weed.’ I’ve met those challenges because we use real honey, we use real fruit, real lemon juice, and a lot of companies try to create an authentic flavor while using unauthentic ingredients.
By taking distillate and mixing it with different bouquets of terpenes, by creating terpene profiles that match different indica or sativa strains we’re able to create a more robust well rounded experience. A better high, and also a functional high that follows the traditional lines of a sativa, indica or terpene infused hybrid. We’ve gone to market with a product that tastes better, feels better, has some really unique packaging and we’re really excited about the direction we’re going.
Q: Why do you think beverages are catching on?
A: We were a small percentage and now we’re picking up steam. There’s more companies like mine producing better products. Part of the challenge in the past was science. If you’ve got a farm, it doesn’t take a whole lot to do some trimming. It doesn’t take a whole lot to roll up a joint and make a pre roll.
Beverages, to put the oil in the water. That’s a big deal. Getting the cannabis in the water in a way that is completely homogenous so that the consumer has the same experience every time and doesn’t drink the top of the drink and not get that high, but then get to the bottom of the drink and get really high — if you’re going to build a brand in edibles, that’s not a great experience. You have to be able to dose it right.
I literally feel my product in less than two minutes. Think about a brownie. You chew it up, it doesn’t really interact with your mouth. It goes to your gut, then it needs to break down. Then the cannabis starts getting into your digestive system. With a beverage, it starts absorbing in the soft tissue in your mouth, then it starts to get under your tongue, then it goes down into your stomach.
If you were to try a beverage, maybe you want sativa, you would probably want the same effects you’re getting from the flower. We reproduce the terpene profile that creates a sativa effect and put those into the beverage. We make sure that the flavors and the terpene profiles mix. For example, the strawberry hibiscus. The same terpenes you find in the strawberry fruit are also the same terpenes that you would find in an indica plant. It’s all about how to reproduce the flower experience in a more flavorful, healthy way.
— Jelani Gibson
The U.S. Capitol Building (Associated Press file photo by Patrick Semansky)
Booker: We’re building momentum on pushing for SAFE Banking Act
One reason cannabis advocates have been pushing for the Secure and Fair Enforcement, or SAFE Banking Act is because that may be the only cannabis-related legislation able to pass the current Congress.
“The fact is that we have the SAFE Banking Act with bipartisan support and the votes to pass,” said Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the National Cannabis Industry Association. The legislation would let banks offer credit cards, checking accounts and other financial services to legal cannabis businesses.
The provision has already been added to the House version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which sets defense policy for the next 12 months.
U.S. Sen. Cory Booker said he opposes passing any cannabis bill without social justice provisions.
But, the comprehensive bill Booker is drafting with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and Finance Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., doesn’t have the 60 votes needed to overcome an expected Republican filibuster, the New Jersey Democrat told NJ Cannabis Insider.
“To get a bill passed without getting rid of the filibuster is going to be very, very hard,” Booker said. “We’re building momentum, we’re building support but to get 60 votes is going to be very, very hard. I’m not even sure if we have all 50 Democratic folks. That doesn’t mean we give up. It means we work harder.”
“I am confident this is not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when. But I am under no illusions. If the filibuster is still in place, it’s going to be very hard to do this Congress.”
Fox said most Republicans just aren’t willing to back restorative justice provisions. They’ve included expunging criminal records for possession and providing financial help to individuals and communities harmed by the War on Drugs.
“While Senate supporters on the Republican side may be warming to the idea of federal legalization and descheduling, they seem to be dead set against anything relating to social justice,” Fox said.
In addition, he said, any cannabis legislation is probably dead if Republicans win back the House or Senate next year, while passing a limited bill such as SAFE Banking could provide a jolt to the Democrats, Fox said.
“From my perspective, I think it would be a huge mistake for Democrats to not pass anything at all related to cannabis,” he said. “Supporting cannabis, regardless of what party you’re a member of, tends to give you a bump in the polls. If Democrats want to hold onto either chamber of Congress, it would be in their best interests to pass something cannabis-related in this Congress.”
— Jonathan Salant | NJ.com
Career Fair & Business Expo Nov. 17 at Stockton U.
To connect the industry with the future workforce, NJ Cannabis Insider, New Jersey CannaBusiness Association and Stockton University are hosting a full-day Cannabis Career Fair & Business Expo on Nov. 17. The event at Stockton University in Galloway will feature keynotes from business leaders, professionals in the space and a vendor floor for networking. The event runs from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Student tickets are $20; industry professionals pay $100.
NJ Cannabis Insider subscribers should use discount code INSIDER at checkout for $15 off.
As part of the program, attendees will have the opportunity to take a professional headshot photo for LinkedIn or other use courtesy of Columbia Care. Job seekers will have one-on-one opportunities with New Jersey cannabis companies with openings.
Former NFL players Dominique Easley and Jordan Reed, co-owners of leading cannabis apothecary and cultivation enterprise “Legacy Partners” will be the morning’s keynote speaker.
Other confirmed speakers include: Edmund DeVeaux, of New Jersey CannaBusiness Association; Faye Coleman, of Pure Genesis; Rob Mejia, of Stockton University; Stacey Udell of HBK Accounting; Jeffery Booker of CannaCoverage; Precious Osagie-Erese of Rollup Life; Tara ‘Misu’ Sargente of Blazin’ Bakery; Art Hance of Hance Construction; and Akele Latrell of Lantern.
Sponsors so far include:
- The Botanist is a retail and product brand created to help wellness seekers. They listen and help guide patients and consumers as they discover cannabis and the power of herbal wellness. Lanter is our social equity sponsor for this event.
- Lantern is the leading cannabis e-commerce marketplace and delivery platform in the U.S. With the speed and convenience of on-demand delivery, Lantern partners with the best local dispensaries and cannabis brands to bring transparency, safety, and access to cannabis. Lantern is our social equity partner for the Cannabis Career Fair & Business Expo.
- HBK CPA, a multidisciplinary financial services firm, offering the collective intelligence of professionals committed to delivering exceptional client service across a wide range of tax, accounting, audit, business advisory, valuation, financial planning, wealth management and support services from offices in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, New York and Florida.
- Columbia Care is one of the largest and most experienced multi-state operators in the medical cannabis industry, with licenses in 15 jurisdictions in the U.S. and the EU. In New Jersey it has two dispensaries, including the Cannabist in Deptford.
- Hance Construction was selected to build one of the first cannabis grow facilities in New Jersey, and has since worked on other cannabis projects, offering consulting and site-location services.
- Kaló, a hemp infused seltzer drink from Hillview Med, a New Jersey-based and family-owned cannabis company.
- NJ Cannabis Certified, which provides training for all entry level jobs in the cannabis industry, including dispensary training and entry level cultivation and lab technician training.
- UFCW Local 152, represents 14,000 workers in retail stores, healthcare facilities, manufacturing, public sector, and much more across four states.
- 420NJEvents, a Black-owned lifestyle company that focuses on lifting communities damaged by the War on Drugs. NJ Cannabis Insider is media sponsor of the 420NJEvents October career workshop.
- New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, the Garden State’s largest trade group, operating as the state’s cannabis chamber of commerce.
- Stockton University, the interdisciplinary minor in Cannabis Studies offers students a foundation for understanding the burgeoning cannabis industry. Stockton recently opened The Cannabis & Hemp Research Institute, which will research hemp cultivation and develop lab testing.
If you’d like to sponsor, don’t hesitate to reach out to Enrique Lavin or Kristen Ligas.
Jelani Gibson is the lead reporter for Cannabis Insider. He previously covered gun violence for the Kansas City Star.
Amanda Hoover is a reporter covering the cannabis industry for NJ.com and The Star-Ledger. She previously covered crime and courts across New Jersey.
Susan K. Livio is a Statehouse reporter for The Star-Ledger and NJ.com who covers health, social policy and politics
Jonathan D. Salant is Washington correspondent for The Star-Ledger and NJ.com.
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