cannabis think tank

Rowan University in Glassboro in Gloucester County is setting up a cannabis think tank as African American social justice advocates criticize Governor Phil Murphy for not appointing a Black man to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission.

The Rowan University Institute for Cannabis Research, Policy, and Workforce Development will encompass the business, law, medicine, chemistry, and pharmacology departments.

Thus, they are planning for a major cannabis think tank that considers social justice and health questions and educates students on the nuances of cannabis.

“Rowan University has the expertise and resources necessary to study the potential medicinal uses of cannabis, as well as the societal impacts of these new laws. The research possibilities are endless,” said university President Ali A. Houshmand.

Significant Cannabis Think Tank Planned

Under the larger Institute for Cannabis Research banner, there will be a

Center for Cannabis Workforce Development, where students can take classes to prepare for a career in the nascent cannabis industry.

The Social-Behavioral Security and Law Enforcement Cannabis Center will act in the manner of a traditional think tank. They often commission studies of policy and political issues that legislators and their allies subsequently use to justify legislation. NJ Policy Perspective has been cited numerous times over the years on cannabis policy. The Center will look into questions of social justice caused by cannabis. They plan to study in-depth the negative effects of law enforcement focusing on arresting Hispanics and Blacks for cannabis-related crimes than Whites.

“Interdisciplinary collaboration is critically needed to help understand how these new cannabis laws will affect New Jersey,” said Tabbetha Dobbins, Ph.D., interim vice president for research at Rowan University. “We’ve seen the impact on other states and the possibilities. Research and data will be necessary to help us navigate this monumental shift in our society.”  

The Center for Cannabinoid Science and Therapeutics will investigate the active chemical compounds of cannabis and their effect on long-term health.

“We’re still in our infancy about what we know about the plant,” said Dr. Annette Reboli, dean of the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University. “There are hundreds of active chemical compounds in cannabis, including the best known, THC, the compound responsible for the psychoactive effects of marijuana. Another compound, CBD, is not intoxicating and has become a popular additive for everything from hand creams to coffee.”

They had planning to announce it for some time now since planning started before the pandemic.

There is a great need for a proper cannabis think tank given the great lack of information and knowledge about the plant due to federal prohibition and the great fear of cannabis caused by it. Previously many were afraid that studying cannabis would put a larger college or hospital at risk of losing federal funds.

Even those who wish to study cannabis face a mountain of red tape. The federal government has a slow process not designed to facilitate research controlled by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), the federal agency designed to uphold prohibition.

What’s worse, the only cannabis that researchers can legally study is produced at the University of Mississippi and considered sub-par, even by New Jersey’s low standards.

Rowan has already made progress on building out the cannabis think tank’s website.

Regarding college classes, the site reads, “Courses are being developed for both STEM and non-STEM majors at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. For non-STEM majors, a series of general education courses more broadly target students who wish to gain a practical understanding of the medical, physiological, pharmacological, and socio-economic roles of medicinal cannabis and related products. For STEM majors, courses will be developed to explain the research techniques used to determine the chemical and biological properties of cannabinoids and describe their biological impacts.”

Rowan will have a rival in Stockton University located outside Atlantic City with its cannabis minor program has been paving the way for proper cannabis academia. William Paterson also has a Cannabis Research Institute dedicated to studying the scientific nuances of the plant. There is also a  non-accredited cannabis course taught at community colleges for those interested in working in the industry.

Cannabis Regulatory Commission Faces Backlash

While two Hispanics, Sam Delgado and Maria Del Cid, have been appointed to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) and the chair, Dianna Houenou, is a black woman, the NJ NAACP and social justice advocate Rev. Charles Boyer are angry no black men were appointed to the five-person commission.

“It’s appalling,” Boyer said.

Murphy has not made a comment on the CRC regarding the backlash. The other two commission members are UFCW labor leader William Wallace, and Krista Nash, who has a background in social services. Both are white. The Executive Director of the CRC will be NJ Department of Health (NJDOH) Deputy Commissioner Jeff Brown, who is white. Nothing has been announced about his deputies, though the medical cannabis program in the NJDOH is going to be transferred to the CRC.

It took 19 months after the Jack Honig Act of 2019 provided for the CRC for the board to be fully appointed. Nothing in the Jake Honig Act said Governor Phil Murphy needed to wait so long to do so. The delay is likely is why he rounded out the appointments so quickly after signing adult-use cannabis legalization and decriminalization behind closed doors, and not in the usual ceremony of pomp and circumstance since that was delayed as well.

Only Houenou has direct policy experience with cannabis. None of them seem to have direct cannabis industry experience. We’ll see what happens with the CRC. It looks like their Twitter was only just opened.

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