NJ’s (pending) Corporate Cannabis Catastrophe

A number of liberal groups rallied outside the Statehouse in support of raising income taxes on millionaires. Though Gov. Phil Murphy supports a millionaire's tax and polls show a majority of voters do as well, Senate President Steve Sweeney does not, even though he voted for it during Chris Christie's administration.

I always predicted that when legalized pot finally comes to NJ it’ll go something like this: a bunch a politically-connected people who know little about marijuana will grow fabulously wealthy selling mediocre weed for $500/oz.

There’ll be no homegrow provisions for medical patients and zero opportunities for anyone tying to break into the cannabis industry in New Jersey who isn’t already a political insider.

That’s what legalized cannabis will look like when it finally comes to NJ.

So imagine my (not at all) surprise when I scrolled across a tweet from [Florio Perrucci Steinhardt Cappelli Tipton & Taylor LLC], the most politically-influential (hashtag-loving) law firm in South Jersey:

The #NJ & #PA #cannabis industry can look to #floriolaw for comprehensive #legal counsel from #business formation, governmental affairs, #licensing and permitting to #local land use applications. http://floriolaw.com/practice-areas #lehighvalley #cannabislaw #legalizedcannabis #lawyer #law

Notably, this firm’s partners include Camden Co. Democratic freeholder Louis Cappelli and Douglas Steinhardt, the chairman of the NJ Republican Party. (Bipartisanship, to double the chances of getting a piece.)

Not a single member of Chairman Steinhardt’s GOP caucus in Trenton was a “yes” vote to legalize cannabis when they had the chance last year. Likewise, Cappelli’s fellow Norcross Democrats mostly wimped out when it was in their hands to legalize cannabis legislatively.

This could have been done already.

Politicians like Steinhardt and Cappelli have done little if anything to reform NJ’s enduringly retrograde cannabis laws. Neither lifted a finger to stem the tide of 30,000+ pot arrests every year in the Garden State. Neither pitched in to improve NJ’s worst-in-the-nation medical cannabis program. That woulda been a big win for sick and dying patients struggling to afford their medicine. But it would have been a win, political speaking, for NJ Gov Phil Murphy as well.

And so progress languished.

But evidently Cappelli and Steinhardt are more than ready to dine out on the coattails of other people’s activism.

Trenton’s cowardice and indecision now means it’s up to the voters to do the heavy lifting fixing our state’s remorseless cannabis laws. So we’ll have to wait until November for the (progress) meter starts running.

That’s what happened when Steinhardt’s republicans in Trenton teamed up with Cappelli’s machine pals to pass the buck on marijuana reform.

Green Rush

New Jersey remains by far the most densely populated state in the nation. Our cannabis industry will be a massive, gazillion dollar industry. So it’s no surprise that political heavyweights would line up for a piece, right?

For his part, Freeholder Cappelli recently registered an entity called FPCT Partners LLC with the NJ Ethics Commission to be a “marijuana distribution” business.

“It’s like the Parker McKay of cannabis law,” anti-machine liberal Sue Altman (pictured) told InsiderNJ, referring to the politically-wired law firm who, after helping draft the law and the regulations, helped steer billions of dollars in tax breaks towards Machine- aligned companies.

“Ya wanna make (cannabis) money, ya gotta come through us!” Ms Altman quipped.

Altman’s hypothesis was bolstered by the appointment of Krista Nash, a Cappelli-ally, to NJ’s Cannabis Control Commission which is currently in formation. (Ms Nash is married to Jeffrey Nash who serves with Mr Cappelli on the Camden County Board of Chosen Freeholders.)

Ultimately, NJ’s cannabis commission, comprised of 5 members, will govern all aspects of NJ’s medical- and recreational cannabis program. Which means Ms Nash will be at the table 1) representing her Machine’s interests throughout the regulatory and permitting process and 2) providing commercially valuable insight for her Machine pals like Cappelli who are eager to cash in on the green rush.

Incestuous isn’t it?

Welcome to NJ

Whenever theres’s a juicy teat to suckle on, you can count on political connected people to get theirs first. Whether it’s casinos or bridge toll money or tax subsidies by the billion, NJ’s political class will feast at the trough for as long as they want. They’ll take whatever they can get away with taking. And it that’s not enough, they’ll rewrite the regulations and go back for more.

And they’re about to do it all over again.

Just as soon as NJ voters legalize cannabis in November.


Jay Lassiter has been HIV+ for 28 years and he’s been smoking pot the entire time, most of that time as a criminal. 


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