Charles Barker, a policy staffer for Senator Cory Booker, will replace William Wallace on the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, rounding out the five-member commission and fulfilling the legal requirement that it include a representative from a civil rights organization.
Barker a representative of the National Action Network, a nonprofit civil rights organization, at both the state and national level.
Wallace, who is currently director of the professional division of Local 342 of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union, will transition to the role of director of labor relations for the Commission.
“As a young Black man from an underserved neighborhood in New Jersey, I am humbled to join the Cannabis Regulatory Commission and bring my perspective to the table,” Barker said in a prepared statement. “For generations, the misguided War on Drugs has devastated entire families and communities. I know this experience first-hand from being unjustly profiled and pulled over, illegally searched, and scolded many times by the police simply for the color of my skin. This is very real for me.”
“Family members and friends of mine endured even harsher realities and have been gravely impacted by this war on people,” Barker said. “I’m thankful to God, and honored that the Governor has entrusted me with the responsibility of promoting equity and restorative justice as we establish and regulate a new adult-use cannabis marketplace.”
Gov. Murphy replaced Wallace with Barker after the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People spoke out against the lack of civil rights organization representation mandated by law. After Murphy named William Wallace and Maria Del Cid to round out the CRC on Feb. 25, the New Jersey NAACP tweeted, “Today we learned Black men weren’t good enough. We were ‘needed’ to help pass marijuana legalization, but Black men weren’t good enough for the commission to regulate the substance. Despite the historic harm done to our community. Duly noted. When you use us, you lose us.”
The NAACP had since threatened legal action against the state over the appointments.
In response to Barker’s appointment, NAACP New Jersey President Richard Smith said he was “sincerely disappointed” that his organization had to go to such lengths to ensure that the enabling adult use cannabis legislation was followed and that CRC was reflective of the communities most impacted by the War on Drugs.
“That said, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Charles Barker as he will be appointed to the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission,” Smith said. “He is truly a phenomenal young man who has led numerous initiatives for Senator Cory Booker. He and I have had the opportunity to talk and he truly understands the importance of this commission and his pivotal role to ensure the law is implemented correctly.”
Since January 2017, Charles Barker has served as constituent advocate and projects specialist for U.S. Senator Cory Booker, managing policy areas including criminal justice reform and cannabis, economic and small business development, financial services, consumer protection, and technology and innovation. In 2018, he served as a strategic advisor to the campaign of Anthony Cureton, the first Black Sheriff in Bergen County. He’s also served as associate general counsel for Alma Realty Corp. and legal intern for Wilentz, Goldman, & Spitzer; Enterprise Community Partners; the Elder Rights Clinic at South Brooklyn Legal Services; and the Community Development Clinic at Brooklyn Law School.
Edmund DeVeaux, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, released a statement following Barker’s appointment that his appointment to the CRC ensures that the requirements of the Commission, as outlined under the law, are fulfilled.
“We look forward to working with Charles and the rest of the Commission. Now that the CRC’s membership has been finalized, we hope their appointments will be made official as soon as possible so we can get down to the work of creating a responsible, sustainable, diverse and profitable cannabis industry in New Jersey,” DeVeaux said.