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UFCW Union Mixer Features Cannabis Regulatory Commission

The UFCW Local 360 union held its Canna Union Mixer which featured the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJ-CRC) and a program moderated by Heady NJ last Saturday.

As Heady NJ Editor and Publisher, I served as the Master of Ceremonies.

NJ-CRC Commissioners Krista Nash and Charles Barker acknowledged several issues in the New Jersey cannabis industry.

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“I always like speaking at a consumption event where I find my most favorable if not happy audience,” Nash joked.

She noted the Cannabis Regulatory Commission is about two and a half years old now.

“So much has been accomplished in that short amount of time. So much more has to be done,” Nash explained.

She explained the Cannabis Regulatory Commission had issued more than 1200 conditional cannabis licenses and about 200 annual licenses.

Money & Towns Hurting NJ Cannabis Market

“Why so many licenses issued and there are so few businesses open?” Nash asked. “There is still much difficulty… with municipal navigating and municipal processes and zoning laws. Landlords are changing leases, so I hear at the last minute. Financiers are pulling out or ghosting applicants. There is a dearth of funding.”

“The Commission has been proactive in addressing some of these barriers,” she explained. “Even if they’re not entirely in our control. We hear you.”

Nash noted Cannabis Regulatory Commission official Jesus Alcazar held virtual town halls with local officials from across New Jersey.

She said the biggest issues officials raised were odor control, safety, and outdoor cannabis growing.

Nash explained she is from South Jersey.

“We have the richest and most fertile soil. Right down the street from me, we have a blueberry field that stretches for miles. We have Jersey tomatoes,” she noted. “Let’s have cannabis be the outdoor grow.”

Nash explained lack of funding is a major concern for most New Jersey cannabis companies. She noted the NJ Economic Development Authority (EDA) launched a pilot program to help start-ups.

“The application portal was closed within 1 hour of opening due to the overwhelming demand. That is very telling,” she noted. “There should be a discussion on some way to incentivize investors, but not in a predatory way.”

New Jersey Medical Cannabis Issues

“Medical patients, they’ve always been a priority for the CRC,” Nash said.

“ATCs (Alternative Treatment Centers/ medical dispensaries) have to ensure adequate inventory and priority access for patients. Violations of these requirements come to our attention through you, the patient community,” she explained.

Nash noted there was a poster of New Jersey medical cannabis patient’s rights on the podium in front of her. She encouraged the crowd to report issues.

“We need to do better as well,” Nash said.

“Early on, some of these businesses had trouble complying with the requirements, especially during the initial opening phase. And some still do,” she declared. “Since adult use sales began in 2022, we have issued approximately 370,000 in monetary sanctions due to non-compliance.”

“It is crucial your employees know your S.O.P.s (Standard Operating Procedures) and are educated on the regulations,” Nash declared.

She explained the Commission has begun hosting workshops to sign up new medical cannabis patients and caregivers.

“Our first workshop was held yesterday in Trenton and it was very successful,” Nash said.

The next two will be in Newark and Bridgeton.

Labor Issues

“New Jersey has a long history of protecting workers’ rights,” she noted.

Nash said the Labor leader Peter J. Maguire who invented Labor Day was from Jersey.

“Some New Jersey companies have done the right thing and followed the law. But it has been reported as we heard at yesterday’s CRC meeting, that some companies continue to deviate from the labor requirements,” she declared.  

“While it is illegal, union-busting is very common. And we are seeing it play out here in New Jersey,” Nash explained.

However, not every New Jersey cannabis company is bad.

“The Commission has received hundreds of LPAs (Labor Peace Agreements), mostly with the UFCW, I’m happy to say,” she said. “The Commission takes labor issues very seriously.”

Nash noted their actions at previous meetings.

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission penalized Curaleaf for their poor labor practices, which led to their New Jersey adult use cannabis license being revoked briefly.

Appreciating Labor Unions

NJ-CRC Commissioner Charles Barker then spoke.

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He noted the UFCW assembled a great crowd of patients, advocates, business owners, legacy operators, and consumers.

“We’re all here together united,” Barker declared.

He explained he was close with his grandfather, a labor union member.

“He would take out his union card. This helped our family. It was the difference between putting food on the table,” Barker noted.

Cannabis Regulatory Commission and the UFCW

“Labor has been our partner from Day 1,” he declared. “Thank you for continuing to raise your voices and continuing to advocate for fair working conditions. We read about the new and existing operators that continue to unionize and add workers to the labor movement.”

Barker noted they train workers as apprentices in the New Jersey cannabis industry.

“Please continue to raise your voices and ensure cannabis operators are doing their part to work with unions,” he declared.

Barker urged them to report bad actors through the proper channels.

“Our cannabis industry is progressing full steam ahead,” he noted. “So grateful this is a mixer where we’re de-stigmatizing the plant. Just please, please, please consume safely and responsibly.”

Cannabis Mixer

UFCW union leaders Janet Rose and Jake Pinelli also said a few words.

“This is my dream come true. We have everybody that I truly believe is what cannabis is and what can be,” Rose declared.

“Each and every one of you is an important part of this industry. It’s together that we’re going to change this entire industry,” Pinelli said.

Representing Heady NJ, I moderated the program, introduced advocates, and moderated the panel on labor issues. The panel featured many interesting dispensary workers in different positions.

Ascend Wellness Social Equity head, and Senior Account Manager Kate Juliano, Cann4Good CEO and student cannabis advocate Abbey Perl, Michelle Marinne of the UFCW Local 360, Holistic Solutions Dispensary Manager Dawn Quinton, Lead Curaleaf Associate Shane Krusen participated in the panel.

Many issues in the New Jersey cannabis industry were discussed. Some of the problems faced by workers were addressed.

The event was a great gathering of the New Jersey cannabis community. The crowd enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere.

The assembled guests were not only workers and consumers. Among those exhibiting was the upcoming NJ adult use cannabis dispensary Spark 9, which seeks to open in Burlington Township. The leadership of the Puffin Store opening soon in New Brunswick was also enjoying the day.

Outside, a glass blower showed off his unique craft.

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