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NJ Cannabis Insider Virtual Conference Featuring CRC and Dispensaries

NJ Cannabis Insider held a virtual conference featuring incoming Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) Chair Dianna Houenou, Executive Director Jeff Brown & a host of other experts.

Last year at the NJ Cannabis Insider conference in Edison, many were saying it might be the last one for awhile. It was.

“The CRC is trying to find its legs at the moment,” incoming Houenou said.

She explained they are building agency from the ground up and trying to figure out the nuts and bolts and emails.

Getting adult use up and running, proposing regulations, reviewing legislation, and absorbing the Medical Marijuana division of the NJDOH will be their first priorities.

They are looking for creative ideas to implement social equity.

“We want to make sure we have meaningful pathways for folks to own a business in this space or work in this new space,” Houenou added.

She said they want to get the CRC off the ground “as quickly as we can so New Jersey can make its mark on the cannabis industry in the regional and the national landscape.”

They want to establish basic requirements for testing, quality control, how the facility is outfitted, what products are permissible, packaging, and labeling requirements.

However, “It’s going to take some time to make some adjustments,” she added. Houenou could not give a specific timeline.

Jeff Brown on the CRC

Assistant NJDOH Commissioner for Medical Marijuana Jeff Brown

“We’re not going to let it strain supply for patients,” Brown maintained. Many have repeated this refrain before, including Brown.

The CRC will technically be in the Treasury Department, “but not of Treasury,” though they will rely on them for back-office functions. The CRC’s priorities are to hire quickly, produce systems, establish seed 2 sale tracking, a licensing system, case management, and an IT system.

They will also need a support staff of lawyers, compliance professionals, customer service agents, and communication professionals.

“As quickly as possible,” he said.

Regulations written and issues and get license applications accepted, processed and license issued are also priorities. Product labeling standards and childproof packaging were also identified as priorities.

“Third party testing is a top priority,” he explained. “New Jersey is going to be open for business very, very soon.”

Brown called “lab shopping” a problematic and said there will be staff at CRC dedicated to lab compliance. He could not give a timeline on when anything would open, merely saying, “as soon as we can,” though said would be in place in 2021.

Brown said they want to make it easier to become a patient, though not as easy as buying something on Amazon. Towards that end, they will work on reducing enrollment fees, make it easier to sign up online, get enrollment process into the community.

Patients are going to be able take it and go to the dispensary directly rather than spending two weeks waiting for NJDOH approval.

“Hopefully soon,” Brown said on home delivery.

Experts on Implementation of NJ Cannabis

“The unknown is frustrating for everybody,” said Jennifer Cabrera of Vicente Sederberg, an attorney for Multi-State Operators.

Her big tips were the need to hire a lobbyist to charm local government and hold a property. It also makes sense to cultivate officials, have a business plan, and look like the business you want to be.

It was noted that the medical cannabis market is a very weak foundation for building an adult-use cannabis market.

“Think of the ancillary,” Jackie Cornell of 1906 said, as many others have repeated for advice.

Consuming lounges will likely be even harder than dispensaries to open. It brings the problems of owning a noisy nightclub.

“Our liquor licenses date back to post-prohibition. We have not been able to get them updated yet,” she said.

“They have a lot of work to do,” Cornell said on the CRC. What we’re building is so unique.”

She noted that cannabis regulators across the country are located in different state-level departments and commissions.

Getting a Dispensary License

Establishing Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and hiring Application Writer is needed. Along with engineering, security firms, lobbying, legal, licensing professionals, ancillaries, and especially a proper business plan to win a dispensary license.

“Have your business plan ready. Have your team built,” said David Serrano of Harvest 360. “Start looking for your tribe.

“It really is about preparation,” said Ed DeVeaux of the NJCBA. He added Letters of support are needed from towns. That is why getting to know the local government and hiring a lobbyist are so important.

“It’s a marriage,” Robert DiPisa of the law firm Cole Schotz said. “You can’t be scrambling when the RFA comes out looking for release estate.”

Serrano noted that his software allows license seekers to automate certain parts of the application writing process. Thus it could save thousands of dollars.

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