New Jersey’s legal marijuana industry is in its embryonic stage. There is still no law on the books, and the government body charged with regulating the industry is not yet created. But there are many entrepreneurs, social justice advocates, attorneys and other professionals who are eager to help shape the mighty market that everyone expects will grow in the Garden State.
NJ Cannabis Insider developed this list of people and companies to watch as this process unfolds. We include companies with plans to expand the number of medical marijuana retail sites because they will be the first to sell to the adult use market and the market has been stifled so long. We also include people who wield influence in Trenton because so much work remains to be done at the legal and policy level.
- Alternative treatment centers Columbia Care, Harmony Foundation and Curaleaf and TerrAscend all plan to add satellite locations to sell medicinal marijuana this year.
- Josh Bauchner, head of the Cannabis Law Practice Group for Ansell, Grimm & Aaron in Woodland Park, has challenged the state Health Department’s licensee decisions in 2018 and 2019 on behalf of unsuccessful applicants. Some blame him for holding up the sorely needed expansion of the medicinal market. But when an appellate court decided in November the state’s process in 2018 of awarding licenses was confusing and lacking in transparency, it gave losing applicants hope they may have a shot in the future.
- Rev. Charles Boyer, pastor of Bethel A.M.E. church in Woodbury and the founder of Salvation and Social Justice— has been and will continue to be a prominent voice for equity, influencing legislation and policy.
- Jeff Brown, the Assistant Health Commissioner overseeing the medicinal marijuana program. has been tapped as executive director of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which will run both medical and adult-use markets.
- Bill Caruso, attorney and managing affairs director for Archer Public Affairs is also a founding member of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform. The former executive director of the Assembly Majority Office continues to advise lawmakers drafting the legalization bill.
- Coalition for Medical Marijuana – New Jersey, the community organization that championed the law long before it gained traction in Trenton, will continue to bang the drum for home-grow. Their fight is gaining converts and attention.
- Jackie Cornell, chief of policy and health innovations at cannabis company 1906, and Jacqueline Ferraro, VP of business development for Full Steam Staffing, have joined forces to launch the Cannabis Advisory Group, a newly formed professional organization that has already begun surveying municipalities on their concerns surrounding legalization.
- New York Gov. Andrew Cuomokicked off 2021 by introducing a plan to legalize marijuana in his state this year. That could make New York the Garden State’s only nearby competitor in the new market, and could influence the size of New Jersey’s market.
- Ed DeVeaux, lobbyist for Burton Trent Public Affairs, is the new president of the leading trade group, the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association. He replaced founder Scott Rudder late last year.
- Sarah Fajardois the policy director of ACLU-NJ. She provided expert testimony in many legislative hearings in 2020. Her organization continues to advocate for racial and social justice provisions in the rollout of the enabling legislation and decriminalization.
- Ed Forchion, known asNJ Weedman, remains a fearless trailblazer and rabble-rouser from his cannabis cafe, NJ Weedman’s Joint in Trenton. Openly selling personal-use cannabis across the street from Trenton City Hall, he will continue to push the boundaries of what the law allows.
- Jessica Gonzalez is the general counsel for Minorities for Medical Marijuana and was a vocal advocate for equity in licensing and taxation during the passage of S21/A21.
- Dianna Houenou, president of the yet-to-be-constituted Cannabis Regulatory Commission, worked for the ACLU of New Jersey and ran point on social justice issues involving marijuana before Gov. Phil Murphy hired her as a senior Policy Advisor in 2019. People are counting on her sensitivity and integrity to set an example for the nascent industry.
- Janice Kovach, president of the N.J. League of Municipalities, along with Mike Cerra, the league’s executive director, will have a lot to say about what the local impact of the industry should be.
- David Nathan, founder of Doctors for Cannabis Regulation, has rallied the members of the medical community around marijuana reform. He has proposed a system that would create uniform regulations for labeling cannabis products.
- Tara “Misu” Sargente, owner of Blazin’ Bakery and podcaster traded her position as executive director for the NJ CannaBusiness Association for board member. She’ll remain a recognizable industry influencer.
- Scotts Miracle-Growas the biggest financial booster of the legalization constitutional amendment. Look for this Ohio-based company to bring its hydroponic product line to the Garden State for cannabis growers.
- Susanna P. Short,a cannabis industry consultant with iAnthus and member of New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association, emerged from behind the scenes in 2020. She’s been influential in getting the existing ATCs to work together on issues like online ordering and home delivery.
- Beth Stavolaand iAnthus: The two are in a legal fight for control over MPX NJ, which was expected to open in Pleasantville and Atlantic City last year. A court last month issued an interim order that gave some control back to Stavola after iAnthus allegedly steamrolled the company.
- State Sen. Troy Singleton, D-Burlington, has introduced a bill (S2875) that would allow ATCs to invest in licenses held by minorities, women and veterans. It could shape how minority licensees seek funding, and also increase the power of existing ATCs in the state. He also was instrumental in leading the behind-the-scenes conversations that led to a deal on the legalization bill in December (before it stalled again.)
- The United Food and Commercial Workers already represents some cannabis employees in New Jersey, and represents thousands nationally. Expect the union’s relevance and interest to grow in New Jersey because the state expects operators to have “peace agreements” with unions, which say the company will agree not to oppose union activity.
— Susan K. Livio, Amanda Hoover and Enrique Lavin