Back in 2019, I had one of my first opportunities to participate in a local cannabis industry event, sponsored by The Cannabis Society, highlighting the recent growth and recognition of the cannabis industry in our tri-state region. During that event, I spoke with industry insiders to better understand current legalization efforts around recreational cannabis. There were many different perspectives, but one simple statement that stands out from that event was a subtle comment from another attendee who was referring to the amazing opportunity there was to participate in an industry with so much potential: “What a great time it is to be part of something this big!”
That quote has resonated with me for the past eighteen months. It is a simple reminder that, with all the ups and downs in the road to adult-use cannabis legalization within the State of New Jersey, we should stay optimistic. During this time, we have seen the New Jersey Medicinal Cannabis Program grow to almost 100,000 registrants – nearly a 5X increase in membership since Governor Murphy took office in 2018. Jake Honig’s Act was enacted in June 2019 to expand patient access to the state medical cannabis infrastructure, after Senate Bill S2703 failed to reach the finish line for adult-use cannabis. These legislative advances have created opportunities for the Department of Health to enable third party labs to help regulate and test cannabis products. At Elbert, we feel that this handoff will enable the state to dedicate their best resources to continue to focus on important health safety items, such as the COVID-19 pandemic response and mitigation, while strong third-party groups can take on the challenges of reliable cannabis testing. We are motivated to be a strong service provider as the cannabis testing landscape evolves.
Outside of New Jersey, we have seen multiple states in which voter referenda are approved or laws passed that expand access to medicinal and adult use cannabis. The United Nations has voted to de-schedule cannabis as Category IV substance which has the potential to promote scientific research, and the US House of Representatives has recently passed the MORE Act to address cannabis decriminalization and expungement. Although it is expected that the MORE Act will face its own challenges within the US Senate, this momentum starkly demonstrates our country’s shift towards cannabis reform. Businesses are still striving to achieve full access to the banking industry. The Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act is far from perfect but has potential for future modifications.
As we look towards 2021 in New Jersey, we are excited to see adult-use cannabis on the precipice of realization. While Jake Honig’s Act mandated establishment of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to oversee and regulate state cannabis licensing and regulation, adult-use Bill A21 would include cannabis criminal law reform and provide the impetus to substantially grow our nascent industry and boost our local economies.
This truly is a great time to contribute to the growth of the cannabis industry as it strives to expand into new areas.