The advocacy group Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana (M4MM) of New Jersey held a cannabis town hall in Atlantic City recently on local town cannabis laws.
New Jersey cannabis advocates and businesspeople Nichelle Santos and Jeff Booker of M4MM organized the town hall to boost town cannabis policy. Their latest M4MM town hall highlighted social justice issues in New Jersey town cannabis policy.
New Jersey Town Cannabis Policy Issues Discussed
Booker moderated a panel with City of Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren, Atlantic City Cannabis Review Board Manager (CRB) Kasawhn McKinley, Camden Business Association President Vice President Nichelle Pace, and Franklin Township Public Safety Director Quovella Maeweather.
“This is an opportunity for our city for redevelopment. We just want another offering for Atlantic City,” McKinley explained.
“Who doesn’t want to consume on an Atlantic City beach and go see a show? It’s been humbling We’re writing history now,” McKinley declared.
“It’s been a lot of trials,” Pace explained regarding the New Jersey town cannabis policy process in Camden.
Camden Cannabis Progress Highlighted
She said they worked to build support with the African American Chamber of Commerce and others for New Jersey cannabis legalization.
“We started early doing outreach in the city,” Pace said. “A lot of people didn’t want to talk about it. This is not a wait-and-see situation.
“There is a lot of education that has to be done. There have been a lot of people making the decisions on the Cannabis Review Board that you won’t find at a conference. They’re just going through their preconceived notions. They’re not educated. That’s been really problematic,” she declared.
Pace explained the City of Camden, the seat of Camden County, opted out early. They wanted to give themselves time to craft a cannabis ordinance via committee.
She noted the Camden Business Association did a lot of research to prepare recommendations to pass a New Jersey town cannabis ordinance. However, “It goes into the hands of people who are uneducated.”
“Public Safety Director and police chiefs were a problem,” Pace declared.
Many Police Chiefs are serving on CRBs throughout New Jersey, she said.
“The education is still continuing. You need to start opening up the zones,” Pace said.
“It’s easier for us to have a liquor store on every corner,” she exclaimed. “But we can’t have a cannabis store? It’s a work in progress.”
Pace noted the first Camden cannabis dispensaries opened were owned by locals.
“Some municipalities are effectively zoning people out, especially people of color. There are people with real estate and property that are jacking up the prices just for cannabis businesses,” she declared.
Atlantic City Cannabis Issues Discussed
Since they are heavily regulated, “casinos can’t have a part in it. This is a way to get our 30 million visitors annually who come here out of the casinos,” McKinley explained.
He noted that most casinos offer an insular experience “Without experiencing the community, without visiting a local business. The black businesses in Atlantic City is almost gone. There used to be a lot more. I don’t know what happened.”
McKinley explained they have a small Green Zone where licensed New Jersey cannabis companies are allowed on Atlantic and Pacific Ave, which are the biggest corridors in Atlantic City.
“We want new products to come out of Camden County,” Pace said.
McKinley noted they want to keep Atlantic City cannabis dispensaries close to the casinos so tourists feel safe.
Community Host Agreements to Hold Companies Accountable
City of Orange Mayor Dwayne Warren was interested in cannabis research in his city. They see it as a means of economic revitalization.
“You should continually educate and research and put it out into the community,” he said.
Imposing Community Host Agreements (CHAs), where the licensed New Jersey cannabis dispensaries have a type of contract agreeing to give back to the community in different ways, has helped progress with New Jersey town cannabis law implementation.
Warren said that local business agreements enhance communities.
The casinos signed similar CHAs in the 1970s to ensure local businesses benefit and locals got good jobs through casinos working with labor unions.
“There was no re-certification stage. There was no coming back to the city to make sure those things were carried out,” Warren explained. “The agreements were forgotten.”
He noted recurring re-certification by a Cannabis Review Board would hold New Jersey cannabis dispensaries accountable for fufilling CHAs.
“We have elaborate agreements we can actually monitor,” Warren remarked. “That can be the basis by which we revoke your license.”
New Jersey Cannabis Town Policy and Charity
He wanted dispensary workers to volunteer for non-profits.
“We don’t need any more basketball courts. If you invest, invest in something that would benefit our city,” Pace exclaimed to applause.
She noted the need to support local businesses in Camden, which is known to be very poor. Pace noted she gets free turkeys sometimes when they have a food drive, and there are many leftovers.
“We have a responsibility to our communities… to be an educational arm. Too many people in power are making decisions, and they have no idea what they’re talking about,” she said.
Pace was very eager to promote locally owned businesses.
“We can shape the future,” Booker exclaimed.
The M4MM NJ Atlantic City cannabis town hall was part of the Thunder Walker Experience with the Smoke Currency Tour. Thunder Walker is an Oklahaohman cannabis industry professional who was visiting New Jersey. She wants to find the best practices in the cannabis industry and highlight them.