Legal marijuana industry hits another roadblock; no members of governing body sworn in yet
There has been another barrier in setting up the recreational marijuana industry in New Jersey. The government board that will decide how to run the industry has not been sworn in yet. It comes as Gov. Phil Murphy faces pressure to change one of his nominees.
“This is something for the long haul. This is not something that’s going to happen overnight,” says Edmund DeVeaux, of the New Jersey Cannabusiness Association.
The final members of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) were announced nearly one month ago. But they have not yet been sworn in.
Murphy has faced criticism that none of the commissioners on the board are Black men, the group most disproportionally impacted by the War on Drugs. Dianna Houenou – a Black woman appointed by the governor – will be the commission's chair. But without the commission up and running, no businesses can apply for a license to grow, warehouse or sell legal marijuana.
“A lot of the answers that we have to give as an association is ‘It depends,’” says DeVeaux. “It depends on what the CRC does… We are essentially the cannabis Chamber of Commerce for New Jersey."
DeVeaux says that he is optimistic that the governor will be able to fulfill his vow for legal marijuana sales by the end of 2021.
“I do believe that this body, these experienced individuals, are not just sitting on their hands. That they’re actually looking ahead and creating documents that they will be working from the minute they get the green light,” he says. “I think that when it comes to leadership and policy, people tend to go with what they are familiar with, or who they are familiar with. So, I don't think there was a deliberate effort to denigrate any race, to denigrate any community.”
Once they're sworn in, the commissioners have a maximum of six months to set the regulations for licenses. Then there's an application period to receive submissions, a review period, and the plants have to grow.
"I wouldn't call it a delay and I don't think it will be that impactful, in terms of getting to a regulated cannabis market, but we would have like to have seen things happen sooner,” DeVeaux says.
The governor alone decides three of the five CRC members. The other two are appointed from a recommendation by the state Senate president and Assembly speaker.