In recent years, the cannabis industry has been experiencing significant growth as more and more states legalize its use for medical and recreational purposes. However, this growth has also brought to light issues related to political backchanneling and influence peddling, which can have serious consequences for both the industry and consumers.
We need to look no further than New Jersey, where allegations have been made that the state Democratic Chairperson LeRoy Jones Jr., through his lobbying firm 1868 Public Affairs, which is representing an applicant in the city’s selection process, may be using his influence to control which businesses are allowed to sell legal weed in the city.
Jones, an East Orange resident, is also chairman of the Essex County Democratic Committee and the East Orange Democratic Municipal Committee Chairman. As chair of those multiple committees, Jones was instrumental in garnering local, county and state support for Murphy’s re-election.
In New Jersey, before a cannabis business can be fully licensed it must get local approval with their host municipality — which can be a separate approval process with different rules from the state’s regulatory entity.
This is precisely the experience Wu-Tang Clan rapper Raekwon recently had. Newark, New Jersey's Central Planning Board denied an application for the rapper’s Hashstoria cannabis dispensary and lounge in the city after elders at the Old Presbyterian Church across the street from the proposed site protested and opposed its application, according to NJ.com.
At the moment, as a result of this process, Roll Up Life, Inc. which was co-founded by Precious Osagie-Erese and business partner Tiyahnn Bryant, cannot be approved for a license to sell or distribute cannabis by the state that says it wants to heal the harm from the War on Drugs until it has a municipality’s blessings.
Unfortunately, with the influence and connections between the State’s Democratic Chairperson and his lobbying firm serving as the representative for applicant Nimbus Holdings LLC and his ties to the East Orange municipality, this type of political backchanneling can have serious consequences for NJ’s cannabis industry and consumers alike. It can create monopolies, stifle innovation, and limit access to legal cannabis products for consumers. In order for the industry to continue to grow and serve the needs of consumers in a responsible and sustainable manner, it is essential that the regulatory process remains fair, transparent, and free from political interference such as this.
The situation in this New Jersey city highlights the need for greater transparency and accountability in the licensing process for cannabis businesses. It is essential that regulators ensure a level playing field for all applicants and that political influence is not allowed to interfere with the integrity of the process.
As the cannabis industry continues to grow and expand, it is imperative that such issues are addressed and resolved to ensure a fair and equitable marketplace for all participants. Only then can the industry continue to thrive and serve the needs of consumers in a responsible and sustainable manner.