After NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) Commissioner Krista Nash gave the keynote speech at the Working in South Jersey Cannabis Gathering by HNJ, I moderated a panel on jobs in South Jersey cannabis.
The panelists included UFCW Local 360 labor union Organizing Director Hugh Giordano, manufacturing license winner & Good Lettuce Company CEO Travis Ally, advocate & businesswoman Wednesday Mayer, and noted cannabis attorney Lou Magazzu.
Giordano noted he worked with Sativa Cross* advocating for many towns to allow cannabis dispensaries.
“Every town and city is different. There’s lots of internal politics,” Giordano said. “It’s really about making relationships. If you are consistent and you show up at the meetings and sit down face to face with elected off, and you make it this is my home … then you can make some movement.”
“If you go in there yelling and screaming, then you’re knocked out before you even start,” he noted. “They may just not be educated yet.”
Magazzu jokingly thanked the crowd for the contact high.
“You want to become the best friend of the municipality,” he said.
Magazzu noted most municipal attorneys don’t know a lot about it.
“You have to get into that attorney’s head and the mayor’s head, the council president’s head,” he explained.
Magazzu said the smell might offend some.
“Make sure it’s mitigated sufficiently,” he noted.
Magazzu explained there is an opportunity for two percent local tax revenue for towns. He noted the problem with funding and lack of access to capital.
“I’d like to see NJEDA put in 500 million or 100 million, significant money for business,” Magazzu said.
Ally noted form of town approval initially differed widely from a letter from a mayor to a city council resolution. He added he had many real estate problems and had to get into the middle of town politics.
“It was like high school. I would just show up to township meetings. I love Pennsville. They were great to us,” Ally said. “The CRC can’t do anything about the shenanigans going on in towns. If you want to get these townships right, we’re going to need new legislation. So, call your state representatives, your city council people.”
Mayer of Sativa Cross and a Beyond Hello dispensary budtender in Pennsylvania said, “I got Clementon on board. There was a council member who was a patient, and he contacted me. Can you come to join a Zoom meeting? So, I did.”
“I pointed out how money Curaleaf made for Bellmawr. It’s two percent. It’s money, it’s jobs. I brought Hugh in on the meeting. I bought my army of Sativa Cross, and eventually, we persuaded them to look at it,” she explained.
Mayer said Clementon now has opportunities for adult-use cannabis license holders.
Getting into Working in Jersey Cannabis
“I was invited to go to Las Vegas. I was still not sure if I wanted to do it at the time. This mother said to me this had been the greatest blessing of my life. We have a son that has Tourette’s. But by using the medical cannabis, it reduced to like 75 percent of the Tourette’s,” Magazzu said. “I own my own practice. So I can make the decision to pivot to the social equity, conditional licenses, to the folks from Jersey.”
He said he is trying to introduce locals to the West Coast cannabis professionals with money and experience looking for New Jersey licensees to collaborate with. Magazzu urged them to get involved in the community to advance the cause.
“I’ve been smoking weed since 1985, and I remember being scared to death. I would never have imagined a Black President or legal weed, and both those things have occurred,” Ally said to applause. “I used to sell weed back in the day.”
He explained he ultimately landed in pharma and farming in New Jersey after starting in software in California.
“Weed, I love everything about it, don’t you?” Mayer said to laughter. “I used to smoke as a teen, and it seemed a natural progress. I’m a graphic designer by vocation, but I’d like to apply that to the cannabis industry. I did legacy sales for 30 years.”
Advice to Start Working in South Jersey Cannabis
“Rowan, Stockton, Rutgers, there’s folks that are starting to move into this. We can actually have real science-based education, long-term training in this state, which is good for the industry,” Giordano said regarding advice to enter the cannabis industry.
He added people could transfer skills developed in other jobs to the cannabis industry.
“Go to as many of these meetups as possible. Learn from folks who’ve done it before. My regs are, are so torn from reading them over and over again because we’re constantly learning,” Magazzu said. “Learn your trade. Learn your craft as you’re putting your team together.”
“Good Lettuce is looking to hire about 80 people,” Ally noted.
He added people should figure out if they want licenses and explore that.
Ally said the Heady NJ website is a great resource.
“I landed up Beyond Hello through a friend. She had reached out to me ’cause I ran these weed enthusiasts groups on Facebook,” Mayer explained. “If you’re just looking for a job, you can get started on Indeed.”
She said working for one dispensary makes her a better candidate to get a better job at a New Jersey craft cannabis dispensary.
I noted Heady NJ is launching a jobs directory.
“There may be a lot more interest in parts of the south, particularly the farming areas in cultivation, than in retail. Retail right now, there’s still a lot of hesitancy. It’s really important that you have a really quality security plan,” Magazzu said.
“How do I know what I did and what I show isn’t gonna be turned around on me?” someone in the audience asked.
“That person is not gonna hold that against you. They’ve actually done a good job with that, that part of the law and the regulations. You don’t have to fear,” Ally said.
Legacy vs. Legit
“I hope I don’t upset legacy operators. If we’re going to give legitimate businesses the opportunity to succeed, we have to shut down everybody who is not legit. Because the black market will kill everybody who wants to get into the business,” Magazzu said.
“We’re sitting here … for that dude to say get rid of Legacy. They just told us to get rid of us so they could take what we know. That’s hard for me to hear,” Highstreet Concepts CEO Chris Cruz said to applause.
“You can walk in any street in New York City, and in the windows, they are selling retail cannabis. You cannot expect regulated cannabis to succeed if you’re going to allow right next door, in a storefront, people to sell,” Magazzu argued.
Cruz said he has taken a lot of risks as a legacy operator and suffered while others are just getting into the legal industry, which he was not happy with. He was also not happy about cops trying to arrest legacy operators.
(This is Part II of a series.)