The process of cultivating New Jersey’s legal cannabis market continued yesterday, as the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission held an inaugural public meeting via Zoom. The commission is made up of five members and is tasked with charting the path forward for the budding industry.
During the meeting, commission member Sam Delgado, a former Verizon executive and retired Marine Corps Reserve Combat Communications Officer, was elected as the group’s vice chair.
“I will strive to ensure that this commission runs and operates with the same level of professionalism, diligence and commitment that we expect from our industry operators,” Delgado said, who then recalled a story about the time he was arrested in 1975 for marijuana possession in New York.
“When I think about what led me to accept this position on the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, this incident from 46 years ago was very much on my mind,” Delgado continued. “I did not ask or lobby for this job, but when Speaker Craig Coughlin told me he was nominating me for a spot on the commission, I thought I could offer leadership, business experience, diversity and a historical perspective on how much we have progressed since 1975.”
Additionally during the meeting, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission officially took authority over the state’s existing medical cannabis industry – authority formerly held by the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH).
Prior to this transfer of power, the regulation and enforcement of activities related to medical cannabis were done by the Division of Medical Marijuana within the DOH.
The adult-use laws signed by Gov. Phil Murphy in February authorized the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to regulate and enforce activities related to both medical and personal-use cannabis.
“We will create a very inclusive, entrepreneurial and exceptional adult-use market, but we will not do that at the expense of the needs of the New Jersey medical cannabis patients,” Delgado said. “We are all here today based on the bedrock of understanding that patient needs are, and will, remain a top priority for this commission. We will continue the work of the Department of Health in working with the industry to enhance supply, quality and accessibility of medical cannabis to our state’s current and future medical cannabis patients.”
According to Cannabis Regulatory Commission Executive Director Jeff Brown, many DOH staff members will be transferring to the commission to continue the work that they have been doing.
There are currently more than 106,000 patients enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program, with 16 operational dispensaries across the state. Additionally, Brown added that at any given time, the state has roughly 20,000 lbs of cannabis and cannabis products in inventory.
“Our charge is twofold, protect, expand and improve access to medical cannabis, and create a safe and equitable market for the production and sale of cannabis to adults over the age of 21,” Brown said, adding that the next steps for the commission include expanding staffing and infrastructure, fleshing out regulations, and permitting and licensing of new businesses (the state can issue 37 licenses to cultivators over the next two years).
Finally, Brown addressed municipalities that have, or are considering banning the sale of cannabis in their towns.
“A municipal ban doesn’t necessarily ban cannabis from that municipality, it just bans our ability to regulate an industry there,” he said. “I would encourage all municipalities to work with us and wait to see the regulations that we do before making a decision on which way you want to go.”
The next commission meeting takes place on April 22.
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