Heady NJ’s first event, “An Afternoon of Cannabis”, featured a panel on cannabis policy and the industry.
The cannabis policy and industry panel consisted of NJCBA President Ed DeVeaux, Principal of the accounting firm HBK’s Cannabis Solution Group Stacey Udell, and Sativa Cross activist Edward “Lefty” Grimes.
It was moderated by me, Heady NJ Editor Dan Ulloa.
Despite COVID, the event was a success, with a large crowd enjoying the atmosphere created in South Hackensack at Ambassador Studios.
Heady NJ brought together the many parts of the cannabis community and industry, including aficionados, connoisseurs, Green Rushers, professionals, advocates, and activists.
“We all share this dream of having a New Jersey adult-use cannabis market. So, it’s great that we’re getting close to it,” I said.
Medical Cannabis Problems and Homegrow
Lefty said that if Scutari is the “Godfather of the industry,” as he said on the New Jersey Cannabis Business Association webinar last Friday, “Take care of your godchildren. You need to give us access to medical cannabis.”
He said a 21-year-old can grow cannabis for profit for a licensed medical cannabis company, “but a cancer patient can’t grow cannabis to treat their cancer. We have a disconnect. We are choosing capitalism over compassion at that point. And we need to do better for human beings to do something about these issues.”
I commended DeVeaux on the journalism of asking now State Senate President Nick Scutari the serious question about the likelihood of cannabis homegrow being legalized on the NJCBA webinar.
“I learn from the best,” he said, nodding towards me.
Scutari said he is not opposed to homegrow. Rather he is concerned it could compete with the industry, and a proper regulatory mechanism should be devised. Thus, Scutari does not believe it should be passed now.
I thanked DeVeaux and noted that I had been a guest on Lefty’s Sativa Cross podcast in Trenton on the Statehouse lawn and remembered Coalition for Medical Marijuana of NJ Jim Miller saying allowing less than a dozen plants for growth would not create competition for the industry.
Location Location Location
I then noted how hard it is to find a location for business in a cannabis-friendly town and that Lefty and DeVeaux had expertise advocating towns in favor of cannabis reform.
“They gave municipalities a lot of leeway with respect to what they can do and what they want to do. But look, that is the history of New Jersey and the old issue of home rule. It is extremely challenging,” DeVeaux said.
He added said other issue advocates have had similar problems.
DeVeaux noted that Dover in Morris County, as a town that passed a law allowing cannabis companies after the August 19th deadline.
“We are proud of what is happening there because of the civil conversations, the truthful conversations,” he said.
“Municipal leaders want to get to yes. I honestly believe that,” DeVeaux added. “We have to help them get to yes. So, it’s education.”
“I honestly think it’s a matter of how we portray the cannabis community. And when you look across this room and see the diversity, the intellect, and the honest here in this room, this is what people need to see,” he said.
DeVeaux said it would be fruitful “having municipal leaders invited to events like this so that they get to see and experience what the cannabis community in New Jersey is all about.”
During the Question-and-Answer session, someone asked for a list of where each town in New Jersey stands on cannabis policy. I said the list is available if you become a Heady NJ Patreon supporter.
Lefty noted Sativa Cross activists Chris Almada and Chris Velasquez started “burn up clean up,” giving out joints to anyone who would help pick up garbage in Dover as part of their advocacy efforts.
“We had a real contentious battle over voting, and I voted yes because I wanted to constitutional right to grow cannabis. “We didn’t get that. We didn’t get anything close to that,” Lefty said. “I don’t feel we have legalization.”
While the wording of the New Jersey cannabis referendum did not specifically include homegrow, it was known that implementation legislation would have to be passed after the referendum, which could have included the right to grow cannabis plants.
“There’s no such thing as perfect policy. It’s impossible to please everyone all the time,” DeVeaux said.
He noted many previously disenfranchised black and brown people, women, disabled, and veterans interested in entering the market and unaware of the potential hurdles and associated costs.
“It’s our job to make sure we create the best opportunity and the best chances to get licenses,” DeVeaux said.
The Nuances of the Cannabis Industry
Udell noted her accounting firm HBK works “in four states, and our firm decided to get into the industry and do the work we do for our other typical accounting clients and do that for cannabis clients as well.”
“It was something that we eventually were able to do,” she added.
Udell noted her firm has professionals devoted to helping cannabis companies with different issues like audits along with paying taxes. She focuses on business valuation herself.
I noted the 2018 and 2019 RFA lawsuits have greatly held up the market.
“I dealt in Ohio with many lawsuits, and the problem is that everything is so subjective. They showed the grading during the CRC meeting the other day,” Udell said. “It makes it very difficult when you have different people doing the grading.”
She speculated that the reviewers as full-time civil servants looking them over on the side after a normal workday.
“It costs a lot of money for them to do these appeals,” Udell said about medical cannabis applicants in Ohio.
“Ed, NJWeedman has said that he doesn’t feel himself as a businessman in the industry for some time would get a license. What are we doing if we’re not giving him a license with his de facto license across from Trenton City Hall, what are we doing with the system here?” I said. “I applaud the NJCBA here for understanding this issue.”
“We all have to stick together and help each other,” Lefty said. “We have to help each other up from now on.”
“It will be liked going to the grocery store in five years,” Udell said regarding the future of the industry.
DeVeaux said society went from criminal to weaponization to legalization to normalization.
“There will be a retail establishment or dispensary. And if you’re 21, you’re going to walk in, or you’re going to walk by it, but you won’t think twice about it,” he added.
Heady NJ’s Cannabis Policy Panel Info Sesh
The event was a great combination of a cannabis policy event and secret sesh culture. Many enjoyed the relaxed and warm friendly atmosphere enhanced by people exercising their ability to consume cannabis in the venue. While it was a relaxed atmosphere, many engaged in fruitful business networking.
At the panel’s conclusion, I thanked our sponsors, the NJCBA, for their great work and sponsorship, along with the Colorado Cannabis Real Estate Advisory Group. I also thanked the Coalition for Medical Marijuana of New Jersey and Sativa for being with us. I also thanked our surprise vendor McKenna Crops, host Ambassador Studios, and food vendor Mama Vo’s Kitchen.