Three days after New Jersey voters approved a referendum to legalize adult use marijuana, New Jersey’s Governor announced the appointment of the leaders of the newly forming Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC). The creation of the CRC was called for under New Jersey’s amended medical cannabis act adopted in 2019 but had not yet been established. The CRC will regulate all aspects of medical cannabis in New Jersey and is expected to take on regulation of adult use cannabis once legislation is passed.
Governor Murphy announced that Dianna Houenou will be the Chair of the CRC and Jeff Brown will be its Executive Director.
The selection of Houenou as the Chair demonstrates the Murphy Administration’s commitment to ensuring that the cannabis industry in New Jersey will meet the social and racial justice goals touted since he took office.
Houenou is a former policy counsel for the ACLU of New Jersey and was a leading advocate for marijuana reform in New Jersey, where ACLU research showed black people are nearly 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than white people, despite similar rates of usage. It is expected that, with Houenou at the helm, the CRC will take real steps to ensure that communities historically negatively impacted by the war on drugs will benefit from the legalization of marijuana.
Her appointment also should be a signal to the MSOs that if they want to participate in New Jersey, they will need to find a way to demonstrate to the CRC that they will help achieve the Murphy Administration’s goals of ensuring legalization is equitable, fair and inclusive of all communities, especially those disproportionately impacted by the war on drugs.
Jeff Brown is currently an Assistant Commissioner at the NJ Department of Health overseeing the Division of Medical Marijuana. Governor Murphy appointed him to be the first Executive Director of the CRC. Under Brown’s leadership, New Jersey’s medical marijuana program has grown rapidly over the last two-and-a-half years, now with approximately 95,000 registered patients.
The CRC is a five-member commission appointed by the Governor, with one member recommended by the President of the State Senate and one member recommended by the Speaker of the General Assembly. Under the 2019 New Jersey medical cannabis act, the CRC is obligated to promulgate new rules within 180 days. The act then affords the CRC another 90 days after the adoption of the regulations to begin accepting and processing applications for new medical cannabis cultivators, manufacturers and dispensaries. With legislation expected to be introduced soon to legalize adult use marijuana in New Jersey, the clock is beginning to tick for those interested in participating in the next rounds of the New Jersey cannabis industry.