The NJ NAACP is threatening to sue the State of New Jersey over the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) because it does not contain a member of a national civil rights organization nor a black man.

The Jake Honig Act which was signed into law in July 2019 and sets the rules for the CRC, said one of the commissioners must represent a national social justice organization. The five individual commission also does not contain a black man which in terms of representation has enraged many Black Civil rights leaders.

The appointment of one of their leader would likely placate the NJ NAACP and their allies which argued a Black man should be on the Commission since Black men are especially likely to be arrested over possession.

The threat of a lawsuit is already likely delaying the convening of the CRC and cannabis progress. This is on top of the massive delays that hurt the passage of adult-use legalization.

NAACP and CRC Issues

The CRC is composed of the following:

  1. Dianna Houenou is Chair, an African American woman who led early legalization efforts, appointed by Governor Phil Murphy.
  2. Maria Del Cid, a health policy expert, a Hispanic woman, appointed by Murphy.
  3. William Wallace, a labor leader with UFCW, a white man appointed by Murphy.
  4. Sam Delgado, a former Verizon lobbyist with expertise working with towns, a Hispanic man, appointed by Speaker Craig Coughlin.
  5. Krista Nash, a social worker experienced in helping felons find jobs, appointed by Senate President Steve Sweeney.

Thus, to appoint someone to placate them would mean that the labor leader of the UFCW William Wallace might lose his seat most likely. Or we risk losing Hispanic representation when the drug was called “marijuana” to persecute Mexican Americans and make them second-class citizens. (Full disclosure I represent the Latino Action Network on cannabis policy.)

Delgado and Nash were picked by State Senate President Sweeney and Speaker Coughlin. They were each given one pick while Murphy was allowed three picks, including the chair.

Houenou worked for the ACLU NJ as the lead proponent of legalization. However, more than two years ago she left the organization. While that might satisfy legal requirement, it is not likely to leave the NJ NAACP and their allies placated.

While Murphy quickly moved to appoint figures to the CRC after signing the bill, he had been delaying doing so for months and never justified the delay. Since then, the CRC has done exceedingly little to become a real agency instead of a paper tiger.

Murphy has been reluctant to comment on the dicey situation, saying there was “nothing new” at a press conference earlier this week.

The NJ NAACP did not respond to requests for interview by time of publication.

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