New Jersey cannabis commission gets going with historic meeting

Monday, April 12, 2021
NJ cannabis commission gets going with historic meeting
The five-member commission met remotely, kicking off what Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has said could be six months until recreational marijuana hits the market.

CAMDEN, New Jersey (WPVI) -- New Jersey's new Cannabis Regulatory Commission on Monday inched toward setting up the recreational marijuana market, holding its first meeting and picking a vice chair and logo.

The five-member commission met remotely, kicking off what Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy has said could be six months 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.

"This will not be an easy road to travel. There will be many competing interests and much is on the line," said Delgado.

RELATED: Marijuana now legal in New Jersey, but logistics need to be worked out

The panel also voted to approve a logo, which features the letters NJ in shades of blue, with the geographic shape of the state embedded between the letters and over top a gold sunburst. Surrounding that are the words New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, as well as "Equity" and "Safety."

"By applying the values of safety and equity, we will center our work around creating and protecting access for patients, promoting the production of safe products, and promoting diversity and inclusion in the industry to develop a national model for sensible, fair oversight," Houenou said.

Delgado said during remarks that the recreational market won't move ahead at the expense of the state's already established medical marijuana establishment, which has 16 dispensaries across the state and 106,000 patients.

Under law Murphy signed in February, the commission must establish regulations for the new recreational marijuana marketplace that voters ratified in an overwhelming vote in November.

Someone who's less optimistic is New Jersey's self-proclaimed weed man Ed Forchion.

"I hope all their eyes are open that the black market exists. They should not treat this cannabis industry like Christopher Columbus treated America and act like they founded it," Forchion said.

Forchion, who runs both a restaurant and illegal cannabis dispensary out this building across Trenton City Hall, and soon a nightclub in Miami, fears the commission will ultimately box out those who have, in a manner of speaking, laid the groundwork for the millions - if not billions - to be made.

One of Forchion's major gripes, the law only allows for 37 new cultivation license in the next two years.

"They're trying to steal the existing marijuana market and hand it over to the Walmart's of weed and call that legal," he said.

The commission acknowledged their challenges more than once, including an increase in cities and areas in New Jersey working to ban cannabis.

"Wait to see the regulations that we do before making a decision on which way you want to go," said CRC Executive Director Jeff Brown.

Though a marketplace isn't up and running yet, it's no longer against state law to have 6 ounces (170 grams) or less of marijuana or about three-fifths of an ounce (17 grams) of hashish. It's not a crime any longer to be under the influence of marijuana or hashish, or to possess marijuana paraphernalia or to have it while operating a car. The state still has laws against driving under the influence of drugs.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.