Tidbits from Friday’s Cannabis Hearing

A 9am Judiciary Committee Hearing on the state of cannabis in NJ drew hoards of spectators on a chilly rainy summer day. But things heated up quickly once the cannabis debate began. Here are some nuggets from today’s hearing

Knives Out

Many in attendance appear critical of NJ’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission, the agency which governs NJ’s recreational and medical cannabis program. We’ve critiqued the CRC on these pages on behalf of medical consumers who pay too much of their meds. But the CRC is comprised of hardworking, ethical people who seems to be doing the best to accommodate a lot of opposing interests. Trenton’s appetite to blow up CRC is ironic considering those are the same state lawmakers whose foot-dragging and can-kicking empowered the CRC to begin with.

The critique 0f CRC by its detractors boils down to this: powerful people want in on NJs Cannabis Gold Rush and the CRC has different priorities than rewarding political-connected cannabis wannabes eager to cash in. Imagine that??

Judges

Before the cannabis debate kicked off, the committee addressed NJ’s judicial logjam and advanced the nominations of a handful of would-be judges. Today was supposecd to be cannabis-only, but anyone familiar with NJ’s alarming raft of judical openings knows how important filling these judicial openings is. No one appeared antsy about the delay.

Homegrow cannabis

Advocates want to discuss the home cultivation of cannabis in NJ (or lack thereof) but this hearing appears more focused on how the CRC is doing,

“The CRC is building a plane while flying it,” said Judiciary Committee Chairman Brian Stack said in his opening statement. He then proceeded to point out high prices of cannabis in New Jersey and other “erratic decisions by the CRC” regarding licensing.

CRC under the microscope

CRC Chair Dianne Houenou and CRC Executive Director Jeff Brown went first (see pic.)

”The commission of only 2 years old,” Ms. Houenou reminded panel before outlining the progress they’ve made. “Gross sales of medical and recreational cannabis totaled $540m so far this fiscal year.”

Ms. Houenou promised to prioritize medical cannabis patients in NJ which tracks with my own anecdotal experience (of late.) It hasn’t always been that way. Sometimes patients feel like an after thought as recreational cannabis became legal, but since CRC threatened to revoke Curaleaf’s license for not prioritizing patients, the dispensaries have fallen in line putting patients first. Finally.

I’ll give Chairwoman Houenou and CRC credit for that positive change

Mr Brown, the CRC executive director, went next. He rattled off points of progress while half the committee zoned out. Mr. Brown noted that 315 of 490 applicants previously incarcerated for weed have been approved to do business in NJ.

Mr. Brown repeatedly referred to the black market as the “legacy market,” a rhetorical shift that honors and acknowledges the black market dealers who risked their freedom to created NJ’s cannabis marketplace.

Committee member Senator Fred Madden (D-Gloucester) expressed concerns about flavored cannabis products getting into the hands of kids (which we obviously don’t want.) Mr. Brown countered that NJ’s cannabis products come in childproof packaging. (Note: they’re adult-proof too.)

Senator Madden appeared to be confusing menthol-flavored cigarettes with (artificially) flavored cannabis product which are not available for smoking or vaping in New Jersey. Lot of confused looks on the faces in the crowd, including my own.

The topic of homegrow never came up during Senator Madden’s meandering line of questioning although menthol cigarettes came up a lot.

Chairman Stack urged the CRC to report back to the legislature on a quarterly basis. He wants better communication from the CRC about things like research trials and general progress reports.

“Absolutely,” Ms. Houenou replied.

Senator Joe Lagana asked CRC reps about Delta 8, a close cousin of cannabis that’s readily available at gas stations and convenience stores. Delta 8 is a much-less psychoactive hemp-based product. Ms. Houenou noted Delta 8 is not under CRC’s jurisdiction.

”it feels like a blind eye is being turned (to Delta 8,) Mr. Lagana added.

Mr. Brown noted Delta 8 was legalized federally under the 2018 Farm Bill which is up for Congressional reauthorization this year.

Jay Lassiter is a writer and podcaster based in Cherry Hill, NJ. He’s been. HIV+ Over 30 years and has used cannabis the entire time, mostly as a criminal. Including today. 

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8 responses to “Tidbits from Friday’s Cannabis Hearing”

  1. Very true.

    Over the past few decades, the amount of THC in marijuana has steadily climbed. Today’s marijuana has three times the concentration of THC compared to 25 years ago. The higher the THC amount, the stronger the effects on the brain, likely contributing to increased rates of marijuana related emergency room visits.

    While there is no research on how higher potency affects the long-term risks of marijuana use, more THC is likely to lead to higher rates of dependency and addiction.

    Our government officials are not so much concerned for public health and safety as they are for tax revenue and control.

  2. Cigarettes are completely legal and kill more people then all other drugs combined. If you are that concerned with public health maybe you should start there!

  3. It’s amazing how many clowns there are in the comment section. “Dope smoking” “Scourge” sounds like something straight out of Reagan’s “war on drugs”. It’s a shame that the propaganda and disinformation has really warped the perspective of the narrow minded.

  4. All y’all people that don’t smoke that know so much about pot are the real scourge. Quit scourging. All I hear when I hear them facts about how BAD weed is is, scourge, scourge, scourge…

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