It was full speed ahead on marijuana legalization when Governor Phil Murphy was elected this past fall. He said he wanted to see legislation in 100 days after taking office and legalization looked like it was on a fast track. The brakes have since been tapped and the momentum may have stalled. Still, some New Jersey residents are taking this time to prepare themselves because they believe legalization will eventually happen. What form has yet to be determined.
“The governor was very progressive. It was the platform he ran on,” said Ellie Seigel, an attorney and founder of advisory firm Longview Strategic. “Saying it would be out within 100 days, that was ambitious,” she said. Seigel noted that legalization can be an uphill battle on many fronts, even if you have a governor that supports it. Some legislators are trying to keep the momentum going and there are currently ten different bills regarding cannabis for the 2018-19 session. Last week, it was reported by Leafly that New Jersey’s Assembly Oversight Committee heard from experts on cannabis legalization. A sign that some work is continuing to take place.
Still, anti-marijuana forces have mobilized. While medical marijuana is already legal in the state, the program is very restrictive and many seek to keep it that way. They point to a Fairleigh Dickinson University survey that found only 42% of the residents actually approve of legalizing recreational marijuana and 27% want to keep it illegal. Seigel pointed out that the survey only covered 801 people and felt it was too small of a survey population to rely on as accurate.
One group calls itself Responsible Approaches to Marijuana Policy or RAMP and models itself on the group Smart Approaches to Marijuana (SAM) run by Kevin Sabet. It is led by Dr. Jethro James, the Senior Pastor of Paradise Baptist Church and is President of the Newark/North Jersey Committee of Black Churchmen. They have aligned themselves with Senator Ron Rice Sr. of Newark to fight the expansion of legalization. This puts it at odds with many African American groups which usually look at legalization as a way to combat discriminatory incarceration practices for marijuana offenses.
Seigel acknowledged that the New Jersey Democrats were split on how far they would like to go with legalization. Some only want the medical program expanded and some prefer decriminalization. The Governor prefers to see big tax revenue coming in. He estimated it would bring in $300 million for the state, which would be a big boost to the budget.
There continues to be huge interest in legalization from many residents. A recent event held by the New Jersey Cannabis Symposium attracted over 800 people and had to be moved three times to larger venues. Seigel said, “Our mission is to educate the residents of the state and destigmatize marijuana.” The group plans on staging several events as they address questions for many people looking to enter the cannabis industry in the state as it expands no matter what form that takes.
The next milestone in the process is the governors budget address to be held on Tuesday, March 13. If those cannabis dollars that Governor Murphy wants get included, then the gas pedal will be pushed. If Governor Murphy neglects to include cannabis revenue in his budget, then it would be seen as a negative for the industry. On March 24, a report recommending changes to the medical marijuana program is expected to be issued. The Governor had asked that the Department of Health review the medical marijuana program within 60 days and this is the delivery date for that report.
New Jersey Cannabis Symposium
The next event from the New Jersey Cannabis Symposium is geared towards finance and investing. It will be held at NJPAC in Newark March 29 from 4:30-8:30pm. Published panelists include:
● Al Foreman – Partner & CIO at Tuatara Capital
● Cynthia Salarizadeh – Co-founder/Chief Strategy Officer of Green Market Report
● Gary B. Rosen, CPA, CFE, CFF, CVA, CGMA – Partner, Marcum LLP
● Javier Hasse – Cannabis/Biotech Author & Journalist
● John Kagia – Executive Vice President, Industry Analytics at New Frontier Data
● Ellie O. Siegel, Esq., MBA – Founder of Longview Strategic
Justin Zaremba, the editor of NJ CANNABIS INSIDER and Aaron Smith, CNN Money’s Cannabis Reporter, will moderate the panels.
Panel discussions are set to include:
● How to prepare for a capital raise
● Structuring your cap table
● Investment Opportunities in NJ cannabis & Surrounding markets
● Targeting the right kind of funding for your business
● Determining how much capital to raise
● 280E Tax implications
● Deductions for cannabis businesses
● Banking challenges and solutions
To register, featuring Advanced Pricing of $50 off the walk-in price thru March 15, please go to http://www.njcannabissymposium.com. Green Market Report is a marketing partner for the event.