First and foremost, I hope everyone enjoyed their 4/20.
It’s such an awesome holiday, I just may have to do an article on how Congress can be lobbied to actually make it an official federal holiday (after federal prohibition ends, of course … any day now).
For now though, the publication will settle for digging deep into the issues that affect the Garden State and it’s Tri-state neighbors.
With that in mind, we have a lot of articles this week that touch on a keyword that was also a constant in this week’s presidential address by Joe Biden.
The word itself, rather unassuming, speaks to the organizational structures and facilities through which goals are going to be accomplished, and yet it is this very word that will determine how and when the most key aspects of the cannabis industry’s goals come to fruition.
For the lead story, Sue Livio delivers an article about labeling in cannabis and what can be done to improve a key piece of infrastructure that has seen calls for improvements for quite some time.
Jonathan Salant spoke to U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez about the data that is required to make the cannabis industry more informed when it comes to building that infrastructure and what piece of legislation out of D.C. could help with the process.
On the topic of law enforcement and employment infrastructure, Amanda Hoover has an article that talks about what cannabis use is going to mean for law enforcement employment.
My article covers an upcoming event that will talk about how to bring legacy operators into the legal market, a topic that has been long overdue in an industry that’s been ‘legalized’ in the greyest of areas under a system of federal prohibition.
For our Q&A’s we have two this week.
One is with Leafly CEO Yoko Miyashita on what equitable business structure and consumer education looks like and another is with xTuple CEO Ned Lilly on how new entrants into the cannabis field will increasingly require new metrics and new software.
Remember, we’re putting together a virtual June conference (early-bird code: early0608 for $20 off the public price of admission. Ends May 14.) Lots of exciting things developing on that front as we’re going to devote talks about building the right space, how towns are preparing for a cannabis economy as well as banking and finance.
We have several speakers onboard for our Empire State event on May 20, including Dasheeda Dawson, cannabis czar for the City of Portland, Oregon, and Ngiste Abebe, president of the New York Medical Cannabis Industry Assn. Presented by Hance Construction, we’re developing the event in coordination with our sister news site, Syracuse.com, which is part of our Advance Local family. NJ Cannabis Insider members should use promo code nysub for discounted entry. Read more about it inside. If you’re interested in sponsorship or speaking opportunities for either of these events, reach out to Enrique Lavin or Kristen Ligas.
Until next week…
— Jelani Gibson
A proposed universal labeling system.
Standardizing cannabis labeling will protect consumers and boost confidence — and it’s a CRC priority. Here’s one leading proposal.
Although New Jersey is many months away launching a retail recreational cannabis market, it’s the right time to develop product labeling requirements to inform and protect consumers, David Nathan, founder and board president of Doctors For Cannabis Regulation, told NJ Cannabis Insider this week.
In the absence of federal approval and oversight, every state has its own labeling requirements. The result is often an indecipherable hodge podge of fonts and images and confusing messages crammed into a small space, said the Princeton-based psychiatrist and more recently, a member of the International Standards Organization.
Nathan, who wrote an article on the topic for Cannabis Science and Technology last summer, shared the latest model graphic this week that he hopes New Jersey as well as other states will use.
It contained a “universal cannabis information label” resembling the familiar nutritional label on food products, and a marijuana leaf in bright yellow and black as a warning symbol.
David Nathan, founder and board president of Doctors For Cannabis Regulation, has developed universal product labeling for cannabis to inform and protect consumers. (Photo by Patti Sapone | For NJ Cannabis Insider)
“What I am doing at this stage is setting the bar so that labeling and packaging meets a certain standard,” Nathan said. “Proper labeling is the point of convergence for a number of key processes — testing, purity and warnings for at-risk populations. If the label is done right, you can have some confidence that the product is well regulated.”
A study published in the January edition of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research also examined labeling requirements, and looked at how it is done in 31 of the 33 states with medical cannabis programs. The authors concluded uniformity is sorely lacking.
Every state required the percentage of THC content and manufacturer contact information, and more than 80% required “the batch number, health risks, production tracking, a cannabis symbol, cannabidiol content, children disclaimer, and an impairment disclaimer,” the article said.
“There appeared to be a random pattern in requirements for other specific items,” according to the article. “A comprehensive framework for cannabis use is needed to protect the public, maximize benefits, and minimize harms and risks.”
The law Gov. Phil Murphy signed in February “does a good job and gives the Cannabis Regulatory Commission a lot to work with,” Nathan said. Missing, however, “are some core public health cautions — such as an important warning for people with psychotic disorders,” he added.
A spokeswoman for the CRC, Toni-Anne Blake, said the law gives the commission “broad authority to improve and expand upon current medical cannabis labeling standards, and develop new standards for personal use cannabis with explicit direction to warn consumers about THC content.”
“Equipping consumers with the right information to make an informed decision about cannabis, whether medical or for personal use, will be a priority for the CRC,” Blake added.
The law says labels must “adequately inform consumers about safe cannabis use and warn of the consequences of misuse or overuse.” It also must include:
- Net weight
- Percentage of THC contained in the cannabis product and in each serving
- Production date and expiration date
- Ingredients, including allergens
- Strain or type of cannabis, by scientific terms and generic or “slang” names
- Whether the product requires refrigeration
- Growth method and a complete list of any nonorganic pesticides, fungicides and herbicides used during cultivation
- Serving size and the total number of servings
The law also contains emphatic language that labels and packaging cannot in any way be seen as an enticement for use by kids.
New Jersey should learn from other states’ mistakes, Nathan said. At one time, a cannabis product in the Colorado market looked like a Kit Kat bar. (The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration put an end to the sale of the “Kif Kat” bar in 2007, according to the Huffington Post.) “That’s a very dangerous thing,” he said.
“I hope that the Cannabis Regulatory Commission will go beyond the letter of this law and implement strong labeling by mandating use of an appropriately adapted version of the Universal Cannabis Information Label,” Nathan said.
— Susan K. Livio | NJ.com
Will cops be allowed to toke? This bill says no.
New Jersey’s law on drug testing employees for cannabis is confusing to the business community, but its effect on law enforcement may be even more muddled.
Unlike some other state’s cannabis laws, New Jersey’s allows people to use cannabis in their free time without retaliation from employers. Employers can still drug test them, but can only take action if a person has THC in their system and undergoes an evaluation by a workplace impairment expert showing they were high on the job.
For lots of professions, that’s sufficient. But some have concerns about police.
Many states bar police and other safety-sensitive workers from using cannabis in their free time. A few allow police to use medical marijuana. A Colorado lawmaker last year introduced a bill that would protect off-duty cannabis use for a number of employees, but it has not moved.
Sen. Paul Sarlo, D-Bergen, introduced a bill that would tweak the employment piece of S21. It carves out certain professions in which a person would have to remain drug-free at all times. They include jobs at high-risk construction sites and critical infrastructure facilities, transportation jobs that fall under federal requirements, law enforcement officers who carry firearms and those subject to the Railway Labor Act.
During a budget hearing earlier this month, Sarlo asked Attorney General Gurbir Grewal about the complications that could stem from law enforcement officers using cannabis in their free time.
The attorney general’s office investigates officer-involved shootings and excessive use of force.
If the office opened an investigation, as per policy in an officer-involved shooting and found an police officer had THC in their system, it would create confusion. Was the officer high on the job, or had they smoked days or weeks prior?
“We don’t know what their state of intoxication was if they discharged a firearm,” Grewal said during the hearing. “That could be a serious, serious issue, and a difficult issue to contend with.”
The attorney general’s office did not respond to a question asking if such investigations always involve drug testing officers.
But attorneys agree; things are murky for now. If an officer harms someone, it can trigger criminal charges. That’s beyond the scope of the workplace impairment recognition expert who evaluates employees for possible use of cannabis on the job.
“If I’m defending a police officer that’s involved in a shooting…there is an allegation that that person is under the influence of marijuana or THC and that affected their ability to do their job and make an analysis — I would challenge that over and over again,” said Matt Troiano, a former Morris County prosecutor who now works as a defense attorney.
Such an incident could result in a court battle. Like the use of Drug Recognition Experts, the specifics of the employee drug testing law largely are untested. Parts of the law regarding employee drug testing are also on hold, only becoming operational once the Cannabis Regulatory Commission establishes its rules and regulations.
Many police departments have historically blocked people who have used marijuana in the past from joining the forces, and police have different perceptions of cannabis use than the general public.
Less than half of police officers think cops should be able to use marijuana in places where it’s legal, according to a survey conducted last year by Police 1 and Louisiana State University.
Grewal voiced another concern during the hearing: federal prohibition.
The law includes a piece that would allow employers to bar marijuana use among employees if they can prove allowing it jeopardizes a federal contract. Federal employees working in New Jersey also can still be fired or disciplined for failing a drug test.
Until marijuana is decriminalized at the federal level, law enforcement may have financial reasons to block cannabis use among its employees.
“We have to be careful of federal grant funding that goes to law enforcement,” Grewal said during the hearing. “There have to be a different set of rules placed upon that person with regard to the use of marijuana or legalized cannabis.”
— Amanda Hoover | NJ.com
New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, a Democrat who represents Buffalo, speaks at a rally for marijuana legalization at the New York State Capitol in Albany on Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2020. (Ryan Tarinelli | Associated Press)
Can a cannabis dealer transition from the legacy market into the legal space?
The cannabis industry often provides projections on the billions that are made by the adult-use and medical market. There is, however, a projection that’s often left out of the conversation when it comes to legalized cannabis — the economics of the legacy market that came before it and bore the brunt of the casualties in the War on Drugs.
An estimated $4.6 billion in annual cannabis sales happen in New York alone, the majority of which is driven by that very same market, and the integration of that market into a legalized one is an absolute must, says Dasheeda Dawson, the Cannabis Health Equity Movement (CHEM) chief strategy officer and co-founder of the Cannabis Education Advocacy Symposium & Expo (CEASE). Dawson also runs the Weedhead & Company, a lifestyle cannabis brand that’s structured around education and e-commerce.
“Now is the time to innovate regulation and thoughtfully incorporate legacy operations into the emerging markets in New Jersey and New York,” Dawson said. “We must learn from their successes and shortfalls, absorb the knowledge and expertise of longtime operators, and offer them a space in the industry, rather than criminalization and exclusion.”
In order to tackle that very topic, Dawson is putting together a five-hour virtual conference, presented by Weedmaps, titled “Legacy to Legal: Transitioning into a Regulated Cannabis Market,” that will talk about New York and New Jersey.
The conference is scheduled to take place Friday from 5-10 p.m.
New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes is set to deliver the keynote.
Peoples-Stokes played a pivotal role in forming recently legalized cannabis legislation within New York and advocated for social equity measures to be contained within the law.
“We fought long and hard for equity-centered legalization that provides investment and restoration to communities battered by the War on Drugs. Now, we must work to ensure that those most harmed by prohibition reap the benefits of the blossoming industry,” Peoples-Stokes said. “I’m proud to support the Legacy to Legal education series because it brings Black and brown entrepreneurs who’ve been working in the shadows to the table so that they can be part of New York’s adult-use market. In order for legal cannabis to be equitable, we must integrate them into our framework. These events are a powerful start to that process.”
In addition to provisions in New Jersey that support minorities, those provisions should also focus on adding in the formerly incarcerated so that they have a chance to run their own businesses, said cannabis activist and Trenton-based consultant Leo Bridgewater.
“Cash out, cash in,” said Bridgewater, who will also be speaking at the Friday conference. “Cash out of the legacy market and cash in to the adult-use market. Everyone that I know I tell them ‘get out of the game, your customers are about to go somewhere.’”
Providing an amnesty period for legacy operators would provide an effective transition for them to come out of the dark, Bridgewater said.
“If the state gives an amnesty period where you can come to light in some kind of way, that’s literally turning the legacy market inside out if you think about it,” he said.
Legacy operators having a chance to participate in the market as business owners is a form of equity said Vladimir Bautista, co-founder of New York-based cannabis lifestyle brand Happy Munkey.
“Legalization allows us to run legitimate businesses and be part of the industry that we helped create,” Bautista said. “I want to make sure that others have a chance at success. That means access to capital and a voice in local regulations. Legacy to Legal will help those looking to transition understand the opportunity and find their voice. It’s time for us to have a seat at the table.”
Other industry power players who are scheduled to speak include, Jessica Gonzalez of Minorities for Medical Marijuana, Faye Coleman, Founder & CEO of Pure Genesis, Dr. Rachel Knox, CHEM co-founder and president, Shaleen Title, co-founder & vice chair for the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition and The Dank Duchess, a renowned hashish maker and cannabis cultivator.
For more information, visit Legacy to Legal.
— Jelani Gibson
This week’s Q&A features Yoko Miyashita, the CEO of Leafly. Miyashita recently advocated for legalization in Pennsylvania alongside it’s Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, and Jeff Riedy, executive director of Lehigh Valley NORML. In this Q&A we talk about legalization, consumer education and social justice. Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Q: What’s the potential behind cannabis for society?
A: Cannabis holds so much. It’s not just legalization and economic opportunities that come out of this, but once in a lifetime opportunities to right the wrongs of the War on Drugs to deal with and confront the cost of failed policy with proactive measures to address that. To me, that is the potential that this industry and this opportunity holds.
What we’ve grappled with this last year, coming to grips with the murder of George Floyd and this country having a reckoning with what we have done, in the topics of criminal justice reform, how can you talk about criminal justice reform without looking at this failed policy, this failed War on Drugs and how many people we needlessly incarcerated as a result of that.
In Pennsylvania we just finished doing research here. 20,000 cannabis arrests a year. They’re costing the system $75 million. Point me to the harm. Point me to the real harm that cannabis has caused within communities apart from massive destruction and destroying lives through unnecessary policing and overpleasing.
Q: How did the idea come about for you to touch down in the tri-state area?
A: This is a game of dominoes. This market is lighting up and it’s lighting up quickly and the states that don’t move forward with legalization are going to lose out. People who are driving from prohibition states into a legalized state to purchase cannabis, that’s massive tax dollars that could be spent in your home state, that by failing to legalize you are directing to another. It just doesn’t make economic sense. In this time when Covid-19 has hit state budgets so hard, what state can afford to send that tax run revenue out? I think that’s a huge dynamic, especially in densely populated states on the East Coast.
Q: What are some of the trends you’re focusing on and what does Leafly want to do going forward?
A: What we’re looking for is not just legislation that drives economic opportunity, we know that’s there. You know that economic opportunity is going to be huge. It will be a multibillion-dollar industry. More importantly we’re looking at how that can be equitably distributed.
This is an opportunity to use a new industry to address wrongs from the failed War on Drugs, which means we’re looking for equity. We’re setting up these markets in real-time, let’s set these markets up to address the equity issues from the outset. We started in Washington state, we were one of the first states to legalize and we are now grappling with how to bring equity back into the equation.
We have a lack of diverse representation and ownership of cannabis businesses. I look at that and say the East Coast has an opportunity to say ‘we’ve learned from Europe, these older states, we can build equity into our system. We can build a tax structure to fund equity. We can structurally address this by thinking about these issues up front.’
Q: I’ve heard you mention the free market of cannabis, where does Leafly fit into that?
A: Our foundational existence is about educating consumers and connecting them with licensed stores and brands around them. If you think about that, we sit across the entire industry and we believe that there’s room for everyone and what we believe we have is a platform and technology tools that actually enable us to bring everyone together and make everyone available as a choice. We’re about storytelling and information.
Consumers want to know who these players are, how can they shop with them, what their stories are, what their struggles are, so we think about that from how we operate and how we can be that connection between the consumers.
There are stores and brands that want to serve those consumers because what we’ve learned is there are consumers who want to spend their dollars with those things in mind. I want to be socially conscious about where I put my cannabis dollar and where I buy. Our job is to enable that.
— Jelani Gibson
This week we have a second Q&A with Ned Lilly, CEO of xTuple, a manufacturing and distribution software company with roots in food and beverages. With clients in New Jersey, it aims to transition some of its operations into the cannabis industry. Here, this Q&A covers what it’s like for legacy industries to jump into cannabis and what each can learn from the other as the space grows. Find him on Linkedin.
Q: The tool your company touts is known as enterprise resource planning software, can you explain to the audience what ERP tech does?
A: It’s your basic accounting, it’s your inventory management, it’s quality management, tests along the growing process that you need to do on a regular basis, advancing your vendor relationships, the whole supply chain and sales. We integrate the commerce systems.
Q: Why get involved in the cannabis space?
A: It’s such a boom time, so many people are getting into it and if they don’t start off with some decent software to help them keep a handle on things, then that growth is going to overwhelm them and something is going to give. They’re going to have quality problems or they’re not going to be able to answer the audit questions. We’re excited to dig into this deeper and hopefully bring some of our experience to these adjacent worlds.
Q: What are some underlying trends you’ve spotted from a manufacturing and growth perspective?
A: There’s so much new business, people getting started for the first time, you’ve got to have a system to get going. It’s not just accounting, it’s not just seed-to-sale, the experience that we bring to it is that broader view of manufacturing in food and beverage.
We say ‘this is how your peers in similar industries have grown up and have been able to plan the growth of their business and are ready to come out on the other side of COVID.’ It’s your visibility, your cost, tracking production and being able to report on everything internally and externally to regulators.
Sales are going crazy in the cannabis world and that’s obviously going to expand as COVID winds down. You can’t plan, you can’t figure out what the next stage of growth is going to look like if you don’t know what it’s costing you to make what you have, which customers are going to be the most important and profitable for you — there’s just a whole range of business growth 101 type stuff where people that are jumping into this for the first time really need a basic system to help them grow.
Q: What’s the difference between the capabilities of a seed-to sale tracking system and ERP software?
A: The government strongly encourages some of those systems because they can get the reports that they want. It doesn’t necessarily do all the stuff for the business itself in terms of accounting, in terms of planning, in terms of forecasting, managing your inventory and making sure you’re spending your money in the right place.
Q: What are some of the things businesses will need data on as they grow?
A: As the market matures, companies grow and they see new opportunities they want to chase, having a core system in place to give the management team visibility into ‘this is what’s working, this is what’s not, more money on this, this thing over here is costing us more, we need to get a better handle on our supplier cost, this particular manufacturing or growing process has taken twice as long as we thought it would, we’ve got quality problems with this particular product that we need to take a look at.’” All of these things can be measured and if you can measure it, you can fix it. You can make it better.
— Jelani Gibson
The U.S. Capitol Building (Associated Press file photo by Patrick Semansky)
Sen. Menendez: The impact of legalizing weed in N.J. and other states needs to be studied.
As more states allow cannabis use, U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez wants to know what impact legal marijuana as on their residents and budgets.
Toward that end, Menendez on Thursday introduced bipartisan legislation to require a study of just that for legal medical and recreational marijuana.
Under the bill, the U.S. Health and Human Services, Justice and Labor departments would join with state health agencies and have the National Academy of Sciences study legal cannabis programs over the next 10 years.
Reports would be issued every two years on the impacts of legal marijuana on state economies, health, criminal justice and employment. The study also would focus on how much money the newly legal cannabis businesses are being into state and local coffers, and what those funds are being spent on.
And the study would look at the medicinal benefits of marijuana, if any, including whether it has reduced the use of opioids or other painkillers.
The results would be submitted to Congress.
“As more and more states legalize and regulate marijuana, we must take a thorough examination at how different laws and policies in different states have been implemented, what works, what doesn’t, and what can be replicated elsewhere,” Menendez said. “Having this data at our fingertips and making it available to the public will help drive public policy decisions and dispel any misconceptions about marijuana legalization.”
The bill was co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Similar legislation was introduced in the House by Reps. Sylvia Garcia, D-Texas, and Don Young. R-Alaska.
All but six states, including New Jersey, have either legalized or decriminalized cannabis for either medical or recreational use.
Advocates of legalizing marijuana, including NORML, the National Cannabis Industry Association, and the Minority Cannabis Business Association, have endorsed the bill.
“The Marijuana Data Collection Act will ensure that federal discussions and policies specific to cannabis policy are based upon the best, most reliable, and recent evidence available moving forward,” NORML Political Director Justin Strekal said. “To be clear, this is not a marijuana reform bill, it is a data bill about what is happening around the country.”
— Jonathan D. Salant | NJ.com
Virtual town hall for Livingston Township community could be model for others around the state
A virtual community talk for residents of Livingston Township and surrounding neighborhoods will take place May 4 at 8 p.m.
Produced by Robert Allen and Holli Ehrlich of Canna Pop-Up are hosting the cannabis educational program in response to the Township Council Public Forums, which have been discussing whether to allow cannabis business in Livingston.
The program producers say the goal is to enlighten Livingston residents about potential opportunities surrounding cannabis that they may or may not be aware of legally, medically, socially and financially.
Invited speakers include, Edmund DeVeaux, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association; Kristin Jordan, executive director at Asian Cannabis Roundtable; Jessie Gill, RN Cannabis Nurse at MarijuanaMommy.com; Michael McQueeny, counsel at Foley Hoag LLP.; Ken Wolski, RN, MPA executive director at Coalition for Medical Marijuana-New Jersey, Inc., Harry Carpenter, a partner at Citrin Cooperman; Cindi Sisk-Galvin of BCB Bank and Dominic DuCap BCB Bank; Oleg MaryAces, Lock & Key Remedies co-founder and director of Education.
A presentation with featured professionals will be followed by an interactive Zoom Experience at 9 p.m., in which the community can join a live Q&A breakout session on one or more of these topics:
- Cannabis Business in Livingston
- The Science of Cannabis
- Cannabis & Family Issues
- Current Legislation & Laws
- Cannabis Culture & Social Justice
This week in Power Players we have the U.S Cannabis Council establishing a Social Equity and Inclusion position with Tahir Johnson and new cannabis certificates at Syracuse University
The U.S. Cannabis Council makes position for equity
Tahir Johnson the host of Cannabis Diversity Report podcast, which has included its fair share of New Jersey power players and was previously the Business Development and Diversity Equity & Inclusion Manager at the National Cannabis Industry Association, has now stepped into the U.S. Cannabis Council role to focus on equity and inclusion.
“We’re on the precipice of federal cannabis legalization, and while there is much opportunity to be had, I am acutely interested in who has access to the opportunity,” Johnson said in a press release. “The USCC shares this passion, and I take this position knowing that cannabis leadership has the power and responsibility to impact real and honest change — and I look forward to playing a part.”
Roz McCarthy, Founder and CEO of Minorities for Medical Marijuana cited Johnson’s move as one that was well-fitting.
“Tahir is a change agent committed to solving industry challenges related to social equity and social justice,” she said. “I’m counting on Tahir to get in good trouble, necessary trouble in his fight for social equity.”
Syracuse education and cannabis collide
Syracuse University is teaming up with Green Flower for a non-credit certificate in Cannabis Education, which will span eight weeks and cover topics such as business, agriculture, horticulture, law, policy, healthcare and medicine.
“Thank you #UniversityBusiness for this profile on our partnership and the work we’re doing to bring trusted cannabis education to Universities across the country.It is our mission at Green Flower to educate the world about how to succeed in cannabis today,” said Green Flower CEO Max Simon on his LinkedIn.
While community colleges have often led the charge in embracing cannabis industry education and certificates across the country, the Syracuse partnership could signal more of a willingness for four-year universities to get in on the industry as well.
”These new market-sensitive certificates represent Syracuse University’s role in supporting growth-oriented economic initiatives in New York State,” says Michael Frasciello, dean of University College in a press release. “Online alternative credentials such as these certificates are designed to meet the growing demand for skills-based careers in emerging fields and sustainability-based industries, particularly among adult learners.”
“Green Flower is honored to be working with Syracuse University and in particular the University College. We saw the commitment by the university of expanding offerings for working adults and lifelong learners as an obvious sign that the university wants to serve all types of students in every stage of their growth and careers, said Daniel Kalef, vice president of Higher Education at Green Flower.”
“With the new legalization of cannabis in New York and neighboring states, cannabis knowledge and education will be in high demand and extremely popular as people begin to navigate the legal cannabis landscape and find ways to be a part of the predicted record growth. We can think of no better university or group of people in the Empire State with whom to partner and are excited to begin offering these programs to the public this summer,” Kalef said.
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