The newly minted Cannabis Regulatory Commission held its first public meeting at 2 p.m. on April 12, marking the official start of the CRC’s work to establish and an adult-use and medical cannabis marketplace in New Jersey.
The meeting was led by Chair Dianna Houenou. Commissioners Krista Nash, program director of Volunteers of America of Delaware Valley; Sam Delgado, a retired Verizon executive; Maria Del Cid, a Department of Health official; and Charles Barker, an aid for U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, were in attendance; along with Executive Director Jeff Brown.
Fellow commissioners elected Delgado vice chair of the commission following a nomination by Nash. Early in the meeting, Delgado introduced himself by sharing a story of his own arrest for cannabis possession on July 20, 1975, when he and some friends were hitchhiking in Goshen, N.Y., trying to get back to their summer camp jobs in the Catskills.
“When I think about what led me to accept this position … this incident was very much on my mind,” Delgado shared.
The meeting included the official transition of the medical program from the Department of Health to the CRC. The program includes 106,000 patients, 16 currently operating alternative treatment centers, 4,000 caregivers, more than 1,250 health care practitioners, and roughly 20,000 pounds of cannabis products in inventory throughout the state. It’s also inheriting the 2019 Request for Applications process, long-stalled by litigation.
“The Department of Health and the staff members here, many of whom will hopefully be transferring over to us at the CRC, to continue the work we’ve done at the DOH under the CRC … I can’t say enough good things about the almost 30 individuals we have working for us, whether they be field compliance and investigations, customer service, or our wonderful technology team,” Brown said on the transition.
One of the challenges the CRC faces is the uneven readiness and action among current ATCs to transition to serving the adult-use market. Brown also touched on the growing prevalence of municipal bans and called on municipalities to hold off on bans until the CRC is further along in the rulemaking process.
Under the Office of the Executive Director, the CRC has four offices including the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Office of Patient and Customer Services, Office of Data and Business Analysts, and Office of Compliance and Licensing.
“Together this organizational structure will allow us to build a modern agency that has robust licensing and compliance resources, backed up by data driven decision making and project management, and an intense focus on weaving equity through everything we do,” Brown said.
New Jersey CannaBusiness Association President Edmund DeVeaux released a statement on the CRC’s inaugural meeting, saying that it “represents a milestone achievement, as the clock now begins to tick on establishing rules and regulations around the state’s adult-use and expanded medical cannabis markets.”
“This is especially exciting for the numerous entrepreneurs who have been waiting several years for this day: for their opportunity to help shape a new industry in the state that will make a difference in so many ways,” he said, adding that the NJCBA has faith that the CRC will create a “responsible, sustainable, diverse and profitable” industry under the leadership of Houenou and Brown.
Subsequent meetings of the CRC are currently scheduled to be held at 10:30 a.m. on April 22, May 4, May 18, June 1, July 13, August 3, Sept. 14, Oct. 5, Nov. 9 and Dec. 7. However, Barker moved to postpone consideration of the annual meeting schedule until the next meeting, citing that 10:30 a.m. might be too early for much of the public to join; and fellow commissioners agreed.
All meetings will be held via teleconference until further notice. Chair Houenou may call special meetings in addition to those already planned.