NJ’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission Under Fire

Update as of March 24, 2021

On March 24, 2021, Governor Murphy announced a staffer in U.S. Sen. Cory Booker’s office, Charles Barker, would complete the five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission. This announcement comes after Murphy’s office received flak from the NAACP for his initial makeup.

NJ’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission Receives Criticism from NAACP

NJ’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission is under fire following Governor Murphy announcement of his five appointees to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission1. This commission will be responsible for the regulation job of the state’s newly legal marijuana industry and the licensing distribution to new dispensaries and growers. Despite this significant step towards establishing a legal recreational-use cannabis marketplace, there has been much criticism surrounding Murphy’s appointees.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) is among many that are criticizing Murphy’s commission selection for failing to include a Black man or someone that is a racial justice advocate. Despite the commission including Dianna Houenou2, a Black woman and former worker for the ACLU3, a group that fights racial injustice, there are no Black men nor a representative that the NAACP deems an acceptable candidate.

Why is the NAACP Pushing Back?

Despite Houenou’s work history, the NAACP would like to see a Black man appointed due to Black men being disproportionately arrested for marijuana offenses for decades in the state’s history. Legal marijuana sales in NJ will not commence until the commission establishes rules and regulations, distribution guides to licensing, tax revenue allocation, and several new additions to the new marijuana industry. As a result, these five appointees will hold much power concerning this new industry, making the need for an NAACP-approved panel even more critical.

What Happens Next?

According to NJ.com4, Murphy’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the letter from the NAACP. According to an anonymous source, Murphy believed that Houenou met the criteria needed due to her previous work with the ACLU.

However, a spokesperson for Murphy said the commission seating has not been finalized, hinting that there may be a change in the appointee. Following the NAACP and Black advocates’ pressure, Murphy is likely to change an appointee to New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission.

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  1. “Murphy fills out Cannabis Regulatory Commission” New Jersey Globe, 25 February 2021. https://newjerseyglobe.com/governor/murphy-fills-out-cannabis-regulatory-commission/
  2. “Meet the head of the new N.J. Cannabis Regulatory Commission, ‘rock star’ Dianna Houenou” Inquirer, 11 November 2020. https://www.inquirer.com/business/weed/cannabis-regulatory-commission-new-jersey-dianna-houenou-who-is-20201111.html
  3. American Civil Liberties Union. https://www.aclu.org
  4. “NAACP blasts makeup of N.J. legal weed panel, saying it leaves Black men out and violates law” NJ.com, 2 March 2021. https://www.nj.com/marijuana/2021/03/naacp-blasts-makeup-of-panel-overseeing-nj-legal-weed-saying-it-leaves-black-men-out-and-violates-law.html
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