Governor Phil Murphy, who led the ultimately successful fight for recreational cannabis in New Jersey, has added his name to a new industry effort to encourage marijuana users to buy weed from legal businesses rather than on the street.
He is the first elected official to join a national campaign launched on Thursday by the US Cannabis Council, marijuana trade associations and several cannabis companies, some of which are minority-owned. It’s called “Buy Legal” and is designed to encourage marijuana consumers to buy weed from state-licensed, regulated, and taxed companies rather than illegally from dealers.
“Like many other products, cannabis is not immune to the persistent illegal market, which poses a serious risk to consumers,” Murphy said. “This campaign will help protect the ability of local and regulated cannabis businesses to continue to do business safely and responsibly, and protect consumer safety while reinvesting in communities.”
One concern is that the illegal street market, often referred to as the “legacy market,” continues to do business vigorously enough to harm legal businesses and make it difficult for more of them to open. Hence the call for consumers to patronize regulated businesses, especially minority-owned ones trying to gain a foothold in the legal market. While there are many legal Black and Brown-owned dispensaries operating across the country, there are none in the Garden State — and it could be months before newly licensed operators can open their doors.
“Cannabis consumers need to understand where they can buy high-quality, safe and tested cannabis products, and minority cannabis business owners deserve the resources that a national campaign like this can provide in order to encourage customers to shop at their businesses,” said Khadijah Tribble, chief executive of the US Cannabis Council, who is also senior vice president of Massachusetts-based Curaleaf, New Jersey’s largest cannabis operator and one of of the biggest in the country.
Linda Mercado Greene, owner and general manager of Anacostia Organics in Washington, said legal businesses could be harmed if a user is harmed by an unregulated weed.
“A customer cannot know what is in an unregulated supply, and if someone is harmed by an unregulated product, it sows distrust in our industry and ultimately hurts licensed and regulated cannabis businesses” , she said.
That said, even regulated products can pose some safety risks. In New Jersey, the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission maintains a permanent tab of citations given to legal operators. Earlier this year, Curaleaf and another multi-state operator, Green Thumb Industries, were cited by the state for safety violations including moldy weed sold to patients as well as faulty packaging and labeling. , among others.
The “Buy Legal” campaign comes ahead of the midterm elections, when voters in five states will decide to join the other 19 states and the District of Columbia in legalizing recreational weed.
Minority business owners said such a campaign could give them a much-needed boost.
“To truly create equitable opportunities for generational wealth in our community, things like this need to be done,” said New Jersey native Al Harrington, a 16-year veteran of the National Basketball Association, including the New York Knicks, and General Manager of Alto Marks. “Now more than ever, it is imperative to educate consumers about the importance of buying regulated and safe products.”
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Jonathan D. Salant can be attached to email@example.com. Follow him on @JDSalant.
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