Will legal pot lead to ‘green rush’ in New Jersey?

You might say there’s a little interest in the cannabis sector in New Jersey, if a room of business hopefuls crowding the NJPAC in Newark is any indication.

“The green rush is on in the state of New Jersey,” said Joshua Bauchner, the co-host of the symposium and an attorney at Ansell, Grimm & Aaron, PC.

The New Jersey Cannabis Symposium is the largest such event yet for the state. It’s a professional workshop series designed to prepare future adult-use cannabis industry participants. In other words, entrepreneurs looking to get in on the ground floor of this booming business.

“We want to put a wellness center and dispensary,” said Mariella Vivero, one entrepreneur attending the symposium.

Some women in attendance are interested in building a health spa based around the medicinal uses of cannabis, with the help of some industry experts.

“Integrating cannabis with nutrition, with aromatherapy, with herbalism, with chiropractic, with all modalities. So our online program already teaches all of that,” said Laura Lagano, co-founder of the Holistic Cannabis Academy.

“We’re really going to go down through the things people can start to do now, what should they be doing now, even though we don’t have a final bill or full regulations yet,” said Brian Staffa, the founder and president of BSC Group.

There are competing bills to create a recreational market working their way through the Legislature. Even as towns like Old Bridge, and entire counties like Monmouth, are exploring ordinances to ban that activity. But the support of Gov. Murphy and his recent executive order to study the state’s medical marijuana program indicates, at least to some lobbyists, all systems are go to hit their June 30 target.

“We’re providing legal services to our clients who want to operate in the space. So, were able to work with towns on the zoning issues, we’re able to work with landlords on leasing issues, we help with the application process, everything our clients need to have a turn key operation,” explained Bauchner.

When asked if they were getting ahead of themselves, as there are quite a few Democrats in the state Legislature who have expressed some concern over legalization, Staffa replied, “Yeah, and we know they’re trying to put the brakes on. There’s certainly going to be some arm twisting and potentially some conversations behind closed doors, but the overwhelming majority of the citizens of New Jersey, and really nationally at this point, with 90 percent supporting medical legalization and 63 percent supporting adult-use cannabis according to a Quinnipiac poll this past September, it’s clear that the tides are turning.”

It appears they are turning. Even after an unexpected announcement last month from the federal government pulling protections from the industry.

“He also brought our industry to the attention of every major news publication, every topic of conversation, and it has accelerated the conversation on Capitol Hill,” said Saphira Galoob, founder of The Liaison Group.

“We’re studying all the issues around the potential legalization of marijuana, there’s HR policy implications, there’s insurance implications, as well. So we’re in the process of studying all the pros and cons of this issue, if you will of this issue right now,” said president and CEO of the New Jersey Business and Industry Association, Michele Siekerka.

But any legislation legalizing adult-use faces an uphill battle getting to Murphy’s desk. You can expect a different kind of green rush, money, from both sides looking to fight it.

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