New Year, new things to look out for on the horizon in this budding industry. So, let’s get to it shall we. We do have quite the packed issue .
We’re kicking things off with a reporters roundtable to talk about the recent Cannabis Regulatory Commission meeting and where things can possibly go from here.
Additionally, Sue Livio comes through with an article about joint efforts to challenge cannabis pricing in the Garden State. Given the recent CRC presentation on how high the pricing is, that topic is definitely something to keep an eye on.
Jonathan Salant also pulls up with latest comings and goings of D.C., with info on Rep. Ed Perlmutter retiring and what that can potentially mean for cannabis.
Contributing weed reporter Gabrielle Warren sought to answer this basic question in her article, “How clean is the hemp you’re consuming?” Lots of insight in there.
As for me, I’ve got two Q&As hot off the presses. One with the Last Prisoner Project on how forgiving cannabis crimes still has a ways to go in Jersey and another with some cannabis attorneys from McCarter & English on municipalities’ role in the cannabis approval process.
Also, with everything going on with the Omicron variant (the latest one … until another one comes along. Maybe we’ll get the Decepticon variant next), our event is being moved to Feb. 17. As always, public health situations are fluid and we’ll keep everyone updated. In the meantime, what do you make of this study out of Oregon that says cannabis compounds might prevent COVID-19 infections?
Enjoy the issue. Until next time …
— Jelani Gibson
(Photo by Aristide Economopoulos | NJ Advance Media)
Jelani Gibson: So, we’ve had a recent Cannabis Regulatory Commission meeting that saw it’s seed to sale system get stood up with a well known player, Metrc. We’ve covered them before and in previous interviews they indicated they were making a play for New Jersey — so no surprise there.
Tracking cannabis is going to become all the more important when it comes to increased supply and quality control measures. Also, there were interesting developments on the progress of licenses. What’s your take on it Sue?
Susan Livio: Here’s our colleague Suzette Parmley’s story from that day. The tracking system award was necessary and a welcome sign the legal market is moving toward reality. Although, I still don’t think we know when recreational sales are going to happen. Do we?
Gibson: Nope. The ATC’s don’t even have a firm deadline on when they’re going to be allowed to convert. It’s been a rallying cry for the NJCTA that has consistently said they have members that are ready to sell. They even have a countdown timer on their website.
Livio: On the topic of licenses, it’s important to note that the six applicants who sued the state over the rejection were rejected again. Jeff Brown, the CRC executive director, stood by the scoring and went into depth on how they arrived at their decisions. They have the right to appeal again. We’ll report developments as they happen.
Gibson: It’s pretty easy to see the frustration on both sides of this honestly. On one end, I don’t see any state making a model of scoring where every applicant is happy. At the same time that’s what happens when you have a restricted license market and the stakes for getting your foot in the door is so high.
It’s enough of a maze to navigate the municipalities and federal government. Getting so close to the finish to hear a no is bound to upset a lot of folks. That being said, inconsistent scoring has been a large criticism of the state’s process and other state’s scoring processes as well. Then, there was Curio alleging that some weren’t honest about their MWBE certifications. It’s … alot.
Livio: It was a busy meeting Friday, which also included a resolution approving the license transfer from MPX to iAnthus, after a brutal legal brawl behind the scenes. Beth Stavola, whose company won the license to operate in Atlantic City in 2018, is out. She was heralded as a pioneer in the cannabis industry at the time, and it will be interesting to see where she lands.
Gibson: I was thinking the same when I saw that. It happened to her and I also remember you covering Harmony’s owner, Shaya Broadchandel, going through similar troubles. The cannabis industry is no stranger to ugly ownership brawls, but if there’s one thing that can be taken from a lot of this, it’s that litigation is becoming a regular occurrence to solve disputes in a system that doesn’t have a lot of infrastructure set up. I’m curious to see whether or not we’ll see an increase or decrease in lawsuits as the market gets set. Stability could bring less or more depending on how things go.
Livio: It’s hard to imagine how the medicinal cannabis program will grow if the legal challenges continue. The CRC, faced with a challenge from Curio as you mentioned above, moved ahead anyway with its 2019 awardees.
Another observation: Commissioner Charles Barker voted yes on a lot of the resolutions the commission passed. It was a quiet no vote on many items in 2021, although he has elected to not explain why. So it seems we have broad unity as the New Year beckons.
Gibson: As far as not discussing disagreement, according to the CRC, none of the members are allowed to discuss disagreements publicly. I don’t really know how much of that is political convenience or law, but that’s another rabbit hole for another day. The year is still young with multiple months to go. It will be interesting to see how he pulls up on votes as the consistent wild card.
The calculus here seems to be a desire to get this done and move on. The CRC is stuck between municipalities and legislators, including Sen. Nick Scutari, who also indicated in a recent NJCBA-led discussion he was interested in the process moving along more quickly.
It’s not exactly a fun position for the CRC to be caught in when it comes to those two legislative and municipal pressure points on top of everything else that comes with how high the stakes are, but … and there’s oftentimes a but when it comes to this sort of thing, if the commission doubles down on problematic frameworks and plows ahead without fixing them, it has the potential for a boomerang effect. Still too early to tell, but as always careful observation is a must.
Livio: Thanks for the insightful chat. Til next time.
(Stock image by Canva)
Complaint challenges cost of medical cannabis
Patient advocates filed complaints with the state Division of Consumer Affairs last week to accuse medicinal marijuana operators of price-gouging, charging as much as $480 for an ounce of cannabis.
A state investigator replied promptly to say there was no legal recourse.
“The Division has reviewed the materials you submitted. We thank you for letting us know about this matter. Unfortunately New Jersey is not a price regulated state,” Kevin Noland, a supervising investigator for the office’s consumer service center wrote in Jan. 6 letters to Chris Goldstein and Edward “Lefty” Grimes and shared with NJ Cannabis Insider.
Goldstein and Grimes are members of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey, a citizen organization and self-appointed watchdog for the medicinal cannabis program. They’ve been complaining about the price the program’s 121,000 patients pay for medicine since the first dispensary opened a decade ago. For most of the program’s history, consumers paid $500 after taxes, unless they qualified for discounts some dispensaries offered veterans or people who relied on SNAP or disability benefits.
In his complaint to Consumer Affairs, Goldstein compared Curaleaf’s prices in New Jersey and Maine.
“Curaleaf has a facility in Ellsworth, Maine and menu prices for medical cannabis are two to three times less expensive than New Jersey. A variety of ounces can be purchased for $75-$115,” Goldstein’s complaint said.
“Curaleaf locations in New Jersey offer one ounce of dried flower on a special discount for $200. Two to three strains are available for that price. However most Curaleaf NJ menu prices start at $37.50 per 1/8 ounce, and average about $400 per ounce,” Goldstein wrote.
A spokeswoman for Curaleaf released a statement late Thursday that attributed the price point to New Jersey having “some of the highest real estate taxes and operational costs in the country.” That said, Curaleaf offers discounts for minors, veterans and terminal patients, among others, the statement said.
“New Jersey pricing is aligned with the local market and is similarly priced to neighboring regulated medical markets in CT, NY and MA. Maine is a unique, medical market which is supplied by over 4,000 caregivers and is not comparable to the New Jersey regulated market,” according to the statement.
As of September, patients in New Jersey paid $320 to $480 per ounce, according to a report released by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission in December.
Commission Executive Director Jeff Brown agrees prices remain out of hand and a reason why people quit the program or buy far less cannabis than they need to control their pain, muscle spasms, anxiety and other symptoms.
“The market may be producing more medicinal cannabis than ever before, however, CRC staff are still receiving the same complaints from patients: prices are unaffordable, and dispensaries cannot keep high demand products in stock. In fact, when assessing whether ATCs are adequately serving the patient population, the Commission must look beyond raw supply and also look at price and access points,” the report said.
“While current ATCs may assert that they are adequately serving the market, the fact that so many patients are leaving the medicinal program, and so many still complain about being unable to afford their medicine or find the products they want, tells a different story,” the report said.
Brown vowed to take price-busting steps two years ago when the medicinal marijuana program was run by the state Health Department and he was assistant commissioner.
“Following the passage of Jake Honig’s Law, which authorized non-profit ATCs to convert to for-profit businesses, the Department of Health requested price reduction plans as part of the conversion application process,” Brown wrote in an email. “ATCs that converted to for-profit enacted those conversions throughout 2020.”
So, does Brown think those price-reduction plans are working? He said it’s too soon to tell but so far, not much. Prices “rose slightly” between 2019 and 2020, and his office has not analyzed the data yet from 2021, he said.
“The industry certainly failed to live up to them (the price reduction plans) in 2020, but conversions generally occurred mid to later in the year,” Brown said. “Once we have full 2021 data that will provide better context for whether the for-profit conversions/transfers delivered any value to patients.”
Brown has said the most important thing the commission has done to reduce prices is to issue more licenses to growers and sellers in the medicinal market, and to authorize existing operators to add satellite shops. Today, there are 23 retail locations. The commission gave preliminary licenses to 15 additional growers and 30 sellers in October and December, respectively.
Goldstein said more aggressive steps still ought to be taken.
In the last legislative session, Sen. Joseph Vitale, D-Middlesex and Assemblyman Herb Conaway, D-Burlington, introduced a bill that would cover the cost of medicinal marijuana for people who receive benefits from the Catastrophic Illness in Children Relief Fund, the Pharmaceutical Assistance to the Aged and Disabled and Senior Gold plans, and Victims of Crimes Crime Compensation Office.
Another bill by Vitale and Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Gloucester, would have required coverage for people receiving workers compensation benefits and auto accident victims covered by the personal injury protection plans under the car insurance policy. Both bills failed to advance, and they have been resubmitted for the new session that began Tuesday.
Goldstein and the coalition won’t give up on convincing lawmakers that allowing patients to grow a few of their own plants is a solution, as well.
“My hope is to simply keep NJCRC apprised of the ongoing and serious financial burden for patients trying to utilize dispensaries,” Goldstein told NJCI. “Perhaps the Commission can schedule a listening session for registered patients and caregivers to discuss pricing and other concerns about the program.”
“We hope that legislators will take these concerns seriously as well. The hope is that one day New Jersey will regulate the prices for medical cannabis to prevent price gouging by permit holders,” Goldstein said.
— Susan Livio | NJ.com
A lab in upstate New York where CBD oil is produced (Photo by N. Scott Trimble | email@example.com)
How clean is your hemp?
With the next two years promising expansion of the Garden State’s recreational cannabis sector, consumers and potential licensees need to be educated.
Physical harm can come through blind spots in the supply chain. Brand loyalty and reputation can be tarnished if the weed being used for manufacturing isn’t clean, industry insiders said.
Participants in the medical and legacy market have always been taking health risks when inhaling or ingesting products allegedly containing cannabis, according to cannabis science and business experts.
“People in the industry try to assist people with understanding what are good manufacturing practices and what is generally recognized as safe for consumption,” said Amanda Terprstra, a managing partner at Morris County-based CBD company BestBüds. “We’re very particular in our marketing about anything that makes us liable for making some sort of medical claim — even a hashtag.”
Merchandise may or may not contain safe, potent or bioavailable elements of the plant — New Jersey requires no information for dried flower or final manufactured products.
“The only thing required by both New Jersey and federal law is a potency test 30 days pre-harvest, to measure if the total THC content is less than 0.3%. There’s no safety testing mandated,” said Kristen Goedde, owner and COO of Trichome Analytical Laboratories which conducts third party testing in Mt. Laurel Township.
This test helps legally define each batch as hemp or “marijuana,” which is also called “hot” or higher THC-potent cannabis — determining which government entity is responsible for its regulation and what laws apply, she said
“The USDA only cares when it’s in the ground,” she said . “After it’s out of the ground it falls under the DEA, which looks at the Delta-9 THC content. This is the acid cannabinoid (THCa) in the plant that gets you high.”
There are an unknown number of cannabinoids and other phytochemicals present in all cannabis sativa plants, though THC and CBD are the most researched.
Not all cannabis plants produce cannabinoids.
It’s become fairly well-known that hemp was grown in the American colonies way before it became a nation — in fact Washington and Jefferson grew it — and it was used for nutrition, textiles and construction, among other things. It had a pivotal role in America’s emerging economy.
Hemp, a hyperaccumulator, is used worldwide to clean up toxic and depleted parcels of land through a process called phytoremediation.
The industrial-grade weed quickly produces a large biomass that vacuums toxins out of groundwater and soil. It is proficient at moving fuels, radioactive elements, explosives, pesticides and heavy metals.
Planet-saving properties aside, contaminants make these plant heroes toxic that must be incinerated.
“Hemp used for soil remediation like at Chernobyl, or anything that was used to leach contaminants has now become a contaminated waste product,” said Tara Sargente, owner of Blazin’ Bakery, which sells hemp-derived products, and is a board member of New Jersey CannaBusiness Association. “It shouldn’t even contact human skin.”
Many states have learned from studies conducted in previous markets like California that their regulatory laws need to be comprehensive and include tests on final products in all sectors of the market to prevent recalls and consumer deaths.
A good example is the New York Cannabinoid Hemp Program that was just adopted under the Office of Cannabis Management, Goedde said.
“They put into place final-product testing guidelines for all cannabinoid hemp products produced in the state. Not only flowers, but also anything sold in New York will have to be tested, effective April 2022,” Goedde said.
If manufacturers produce byproducts from contaminated plants, they would concentrate those toxins with phytochemicals and nutrients, creating contaminated products, she said.
She explained that more physical harm would come from inhaling these contaminated products than ingesting them.
Has she seen any junk hemp in commercial batches come through her lab? “I haven’t seen any of that come through our lab,” Goedde said.
“Most of the samples we get are cannabinoid producing hemp, which wouldn’t be used for phytoremediation,” she said. The consequences of it ending up in the commercial supply could be fatal, she added.
She described the testing process and pricing per batch as a sliding scale from $50 up to $500 depending on what the client is testing for.
This is much cheaper than a recall and lawsuits, she said.
There are post-harvest options for potency of each cannabinoid or terpene. Testing for contaminants such as heavy metals, pesticides, molds and other microbes is completely optional.
Terprstra said: “Without FDA guidelines, it’s just a domino effect until we can get things right. You don’t know how this product is being made, just as any other dietary supplement falls under those guidelines, that’s what hemp CBD should fall under.”
However, full-panel testing encompasses all of these options. Goedde recommends looking for ‘ “full-panel tested” on the label of cannabis products to gauge potential harms.
The state Department of Health currently operates one state laboratory. The Cannabis Regulatory Commission recently opened applications for lab-testing licenses, but it has not said when licenses will be awarded. It can take longer than six weeks to get results for a single batch.
It’s one reason why bad actors may be ordering untested supplies on the cheap from overseas, Sargente said
“A lot of CBD companies formed a year ago and they’ll be out of business next year. They’re not really looking at long-term reputation — it’s a cash grab for them,” Sargente said.
So how do we know if the weed is clean?
“Companies like myself with a certificate of analysis are going to say ‘this is the Certificate Of Authenticity form’ or, ‘here’s the batch number’. We use QR codes on our bottles. We pride ourselves on that,” she said, adding that transparency has been key in her 12 years operating.
“There’s a lot of fraud going on, like faking QR codes. People are finding inconsistencies in the COAs; some businesses are unethical. It really is up to your own due diligence” she said.
Still, there are plenty of concerns, and controls should be put in place, Goedde said.
“Even just getting testing done — it should be available not just to regulated industries,” she added, noting legacy operators left out of the legal market due to untested supplies.
Businesses will need to transparently educate consumers during the sales process to win brand loyalty and customer satisfaction, industry insiders said
“Trichome uses a login system for our certificate of analysis and it will generate QR codes,” said Goedde, making it inexcusably easy for cannabis businesses to share their test results.
“I think consumer education is first and foremost,” said Terpstra.
— Gabrielle Warren | For NJ Cannabis Insider
N.J. coalition says Murphy, state should grant clemency for cannabis charges
The Last Prisoner Project, a cannabis reform nonprofit, teamed up with a coalition of organizations in New Jersey to call on Gov. Phil Murphy to grant clemency those who have been charged with cannabis-related offenses in a letter this week.
The Cannabis Voter Project, Coalition for Medical Marijuana NJ, Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, Latino Action Network, New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association, New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition, NJ Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform, Newark-born rapper Redman, Salvation and Social Justice, Students for Sensible Drug Policy and Weedmaps signed, as well.
Known for its national push in changing the way the criminal justice system approaches cannabis, the Last Prisoner Project cites clemency, compassionate release, expungement and reform as some of its core tenets. The organization, which was founded in Denver in 2019, is also in partnership with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers for the Cannabis Justice Initiative to support pro-bono work and post-relief incarceration services.
Last Prisoner Project executive director and general counsel Sarah Gersten was interviewed about where New Jersey needs to improve in broadening its category of who benefits from having their cannabis crimes forgiven. The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What are some of the improvements that are being called for when it comes to the cannabis legislation that included expungement as a central part in reversing the harm wrought by the War on Drugs?
A: We did see provisions for expungement and resentencing in that bill. We haven’t really seen those provisions effectuated. On the expungement side, that has been incredibly delayed.
On the resentencing side we really have not seen any consequences from that. A part of that is the scope of the resentencing was incredibly macro. It only applied to people who only had very low-level possession offenses.
The majority of people that are still incarcerated in New Jersey for cannabis-only offenses have some kind of higher possession or distribution charge. We believe that those people are still deserving of release. We cannot at the same time legalize and regulate people, mostly white people, to make millions of dollars off of this plant, while at the same time saying if you distributed much less amounts of cannabis when it was illegal, we’re going to leave you in prison amidst COVID for years and years.
It’s both an issue of speeding up the implementation and also broadening the eligibility of people who can receive these kinds of retro release, whether that be expungement or resentencing.
The good news in New Jersey is that both the legislature and the Governor’s Office, agree that the majority of people in the state want to see these measures enacted. It’s just about getting it done.
Q: Expungement is about wiping the record clean whereas clemency is about forgiving the crime. What can the state and government do to correct course and why clemency?
A: Legislatures across the country and in New Jersey— you only have a limited session, so trying to clean up the decriminalization bill or create new legislation can get stalled, delayed or watered down.
That’s why we’re really urging Gov. Murphy to use his executive authority via the clemency process because that’s something that doesn’t need to go through a lengthy legislative process and negotiation.
Q: Where does this sit within the context of making a more equitable space for a cannabis market that is lacking in Black ownership that is at an estimated 2% for a plant that also had law enforcement roots in racism against Mexicans?
A: Creating opportunities for disproportionately impacted communities through ownership in the industry is incredibly important. Another important piece of this is, of course, the criminal justice element. Many of the people who were the most impacted by prohibition are those that are still suffering whether they continue to languish in jails or prisons.
One of the most unfortunate things I’ve seen with my clients who were the ones pushing Gov. Murphy to grant clemency, is that they really want to be a part of the legal market. They believed they were setting themselves up to participate in a legal, regulated market, but because of grey areas in the law and the length of time to actually set up a legal market, they got caught up in these really egregious sentences for something that months later would become legal.
Q: In an article that was just done on Black ownership, one of the counterpoints provided by corporate cannabis companies was restricted markets could benefit communities impacted by the War on Drugs. When it comes to consistent benefit for communities of color at scale, that has not been the case in any of the other restricted license cannabis markets. What do you do when companies with that many lobbyists and lawyers are able to successfully mount that argument regardless?
A: Those companies pay thousands, tens of thousands, maybe more, to put out that argument. It’s really critical that the general public, activists and advocacy groups come together to push back on that narrative. You can see this in the data in a state like Colorado, even if there’s no cap on licenses, that’s only one piece of the puzzle. We also have to set up some kind of equity scheme where we are lowering the barriers for equity applicants and on top of that, providing the kinds of resources those individuals need to start a company in a regulated market. It takes millions of dollars to enter that market. It shouldn’t be the case.
Q: What’s your take on New Jersey’s cannabis small business structure through microlicenses that has been held up as a way to get your foot in the door.
A: It’s good to carve out certain license types for equity applicants, but that’s not enough. Not every equity applicant only wants to go after a certain kind of license, so we have to also be setting up capital opportunities for equity applicants that don’t want a microlicense, that want a full traditional license.
Q: What does a healthy ecosystem of solutions look like in New Jersey?
A: It is multifaceted for sure. Those carve outs for certain licenses can be a part of it. Creating training and educational opportunities on how to run a business, that’s something we’ve seen be helpful in other states. The most critical piece of this that has been missing from a lot of states is the funding.
We need the state to set up some sort of community reinvestment where a portion of that will go to individuals to start their businesses. You can have all the training, all the education, all the know-how in the world, but if you don’t have that access to capital, which disproportionately, equity applicants don’t, you’re just not going to be successful.
Q: In this interview you’ve talked about capital and limited license caps being a barrier, what’s at stake if those barriers continue to serve as impediments to an equitable market?
A: I think if we don’t have a market with broad license caps, we’re not creating a truly equitable market and lowering the barriers to entry, particularly for individuals from disproportionately impacted communities. We’re going to be left with the kind of markets that we saw in these early states, that we continue to see in states that have legalized, that don’t legalize equitably, where we can have a monopoly in the market that is controlled by multistate operators.
Operators that are typically white individuals who are going to profit off of this. I’m heartened to see New Jersey striving to create that equitable market. I think we have to do a bit more work before we do that.
— Jelani Gibson
This article originally appeared on NJ.com
Guillermo Artiles and Melissa Reilly
Guillermo Artiles and Melissa Reilly, cannabis attorneys at McCarter & English, spoke to us about the role municipalities are playing in the process of approving licenses, the ramifications of high fee structures and how they’re navigating their clients through it all. Interview edited for length and clarity. Find them on LinkedIn: Artiles and Reilly.
Q: What are some of the overarching issues when it comes to municipal licensing and high fee structures?
Artiles: The governor’s overarching goal was to create an inclusive marketplace that looks like New Jersey. That starts to go by the wayside if you’re creating barriers to entry and oftentimes those barriers look like financial impediments that won’t allow for folks that are insanely capitalized to enter the marketplace.
Reilly: Whether that (the fees) will be litigated and how that will turn out will remain to be seen but on top of the application process, which likely requires lawyers counseling on how to navigate that, it’s another hoop that these applicants need to jump through.
Q: Some municipalities may assert that they have the right to charge whatever they want as long as they receive applicants that have the money to pay. How do you handle that argument?
Artiles: It’s a free market without a doubt. No one in New Jersey should be shocked by this behavior, we are a home rule state, municipalities are entitled to do what they want. We empower our mayors and our council members, and even at the county level to make these business decisions on their own. Entities are free to engage at that level or not, but — It seems to me that municipalities may be pushing a little too far and contravening what the governor and the CRC sought to accomplish here, which is an inclusive marketplace.
Reilly: I would add, just because you may have seven applicants that are willing to pay for example, a $40,000 application fee, doesn’t mean that those seven applicants are a picture of all applicants in the market. You would have to take a look at who those people are, how they are funded, whether those are the Minority Business Enterprises or the Social Equity Enterprises. That’s really who this market is supposed to help and there’s been an emphasis by the CRC on that.
Q: How are you advising clients to navigate this?
Reilly: We’ve been working with the towns directly. It’s conversations with the clients about what towns require and whether or not the municipality itself is somewhere they want to be positioned. It’s long thought out discussions with our clients on where they want to be situated and which municipalities they want to partner with.
Artiles: I will say that a lot of towns have been receptive to the marketplace’s reaction. I think early on you had municipalities with incredibly onerous thresholds and now I think they’re starting to listen. You’re seeing a paring back of those early requirements. Some towns deserve credit, not all of them.
Q: Why do you think these separate application processes are taking place?
Artiles: Our councils and mayors are powerful entities. They don’t like to cede power. I think this is an attempt at them trying to regulate an industry. We have alcohol control boards that deal with alcohol licenses in particular towns. I think you’re going to see more and more creation of that (type of) marketplace. I don’t have a problem with the fees, you just have to strike a healthy balance and certain towns are not striking that balance.
Q: In this interview, both of you have cited a healthy relationship with a municipality as key, but what exactly does a healthy relationship with a municipality look like?
Artiles: You need to have had a good applicant, there needs to be a level of legitimacy between the town and the applicant. That’s only established if there’s a robust examination of folks. A track record of success is probably going to be the strongest indicator in terms of injecting confidence into the town.
With that, you have a tricky dynamic, because if you want to create an inclusive marketplace with new actors, that shouldn’t be the end all be all. I think that’s the tension you’re seeing in the marketplace. On one hand you’re valuing a great track record of success, likely in another state, and also wanting to incentivize newcomers. It’s hard to figure out how you’re going to create that kind of marketplace in New Jersey.
Reilly: I’m on par with what Guillermo mentioned on continued relationships. Those with the municipal government as well as the local community — making sure that their voices are heard with regards to how the business is operated — any concerns or questions and that there’s transparency there.
— Jelani Gibson
Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., speaks during a full House Rules Committee markup at the U.S. Capitol on Oct. 30, 2019 in Washington, D.C. (Samuel Corum |Getty Images/TNS)
Perlmutter retiring, still pushing for SAFE Banking Act
Cannabis advocates will be losing one of their top supporters in Congress at the end of the year with Rep. Ed Perlmutter’s announcement this week that he will not run for re-election this fall.
“I’ve never shied away from a challenge but it’s time for me to move on and explore other opportunities,” Perlmutter, D-Colo., said in a statement. “There comes a time when you pass the torch to the next generation of leaders”
Among the accomplishments he cited in his eight terms in Washington was “elevating the public safety risk of the cash-only cannabis industry here in our state and across the country.”
That statement referred to the Secure and Fair Enforcement, or SAFE, Banking Act, which would let federally chartered banks provide checking accounts, credit cards and other financial services.
Perlmutter was the chief sponsor of the legislation, which he shepherded through the House five separate times, twice as stand-alone bills, twice as part of coronavirus stimulus measures, and once as part of legislation setting defense policy through Sept. 30. In each case, the Senate refused to go along.
“Rep Perlmutter has been a powerful advocate for banking,” said Steve Hawkins, chief executive of the U.S. Cannabis Council. “Knowing this will be his last year, he’s going to push even harder for it. We think this is the year SAFE Banking can pass. We’ll be working for Rep. Perlmutter to ensure this part of his legacy.”
When SAFE Banking first passed the House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., refused to bring it up in his chamber. But even after Democrats won control of the Senate last January, the bill has languished.
Current Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and U.S. Sen. Cory Booker have opposed the bill, preferring instead to pass more comprehensive legislation that ends the federal ban on cannabis, expunges nonviolent convictions for weed possession, and directs funds to help individuals and communities hurt by the War on Drugs.
Hawkins said there aren’t the votes to pass a comprehensive bill in the Senate yet, but there are for SAFE Banking.
“It is going to pass in this Congress,” Hawkins said. “Rep. Perlmutter, with all of the goodwill and respect he has on both sides of the aisle, will persevere. Banking’s going to happen this year and Rep. Perlmutter will have that as a capstone of his tremendous career.”
– Jonathan D. Salant | NJ.com
(Masslive.com file photo)
Cannabis Insider Live New England virtual event Jan. 26
Our sister media group in Massachusetts is hosting a virtual conference Jan. 26 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Cannabis Insider Live New England will feature an impactful combination of panel discussions, industry updates and networking. We’ll dive deep into the current landscape of cannabis in Massachusetts, Connecticut and the surrounding New England region, and discuss best business practices in various areas of the industry at varied levels of expertise.
There will also be opportunity to network with industry leaders and up-and-comers; showcase area businesses; and gather new ideas, toolkits, and road maps for launching and growing a successful business.
Featured speakers include: Nikki Fried, Florida state commissioner of Agriculture and Nurys Camargo, a member of the Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commission, among others.
NJ Cannabis Insiders get $20 off the regular ticket price. Use code NJCI at checkout.
(Amanda Brown| For NJ Cannabis Insider)
Our first networking event of the year is Feb. 17 in Jersey City. Use subscriber code NJCISUB for $20 off the listed price. (Register here.) It will feature a panel discussion about real estate, cultivation and equity with:
- Chirali Patel, an attorney and founder of education platform Blaze Responsibly
- Darrin Chandler Jr., a recent license applicant, a real estate consultant and president of Premium Genetics
- Sarah Trent, an attorney, founder of NJ Cannabis Certified and recent provisional awardee for a dispensary license with her company Valley Wellness.
Sponsors for this event so far include:
Paychex, a leading provider of integrated human capital management solutions for payroll, benefits, human resources, and insurance services.
5S Security, from a single door guard to a facility team of 50, the firm ensures rigorous ongoing training, cutting-edge protocols, and tactical expertise for the highest levels of protection and professionalism in the industry.
We are looking for proposals for sponsorships and CannaTalks. Don’t hesitate to reach out to Enrique Lavin or Kristen Ligas.
Measures we’re taking to ensure your safety:
Following state and federal guidelines to ensure everyone’s safety, we are requiring attendees to provide proof of vaccination and to wear a mask except while eating or drinking.
Here’s our 2022 calendar:
Jelani Gibson is the lead reporter for Cannabis Insider. He previously covered gun violence for the Kansas City Star.
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.
To access the archives for issues 0-152, use this passcode: more-njci