The NAACP chapter of New Jersey says that the makeup of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission violates the law that created the commission because it does not meet its own social equity requirements, Gothamist reports. In the letter to officials, NAACP lawyer Gregg L. Jeff said it’s unclear “that any appointed member of the commission meets this mandatory requirement.”
According to Jeff, the commission requires at least one member to be a “state representative of a national organization or State branch of a national organization with a stated mission of studying, advocating, or adjudicating against minority historical oppression, past and present discrimination, unemployment, poverty and income inequality, and other forms of social injustice or inequality.”
The letter also requests “all documents that identify the qualifications of the member or members of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission that qualify for the position,” according to NJ.com.
Gov. Phil Murphy announced his appointed members of the commission three days after voters approved the legalization ballot initiative last November, including Jeff Brown, who currently heads the medical cannabis division of the Department of Health, as executive director; Dianna Houenou, formerly of the American Civil Liberties Union of NJ and a member of the governor’s administration, as chair; and Krista Nash, a social worker who was recommended by Senate President Steve Sweeney.
The commission also includes Maria Del Cid, the director of the Office of Policy and Legislative Services at the Health Department; William Wallace, of the United Food and Commercial Workers union; and Sam Delgado, a former Verizon executive and Marine, according to NJ.com.
Given her experience with the ACLU, Houenou most closely matches the description of being in an organization that fought for social justice; however, she is no longer with the ACLU-NJ. She is also the only Black person on the committee. In the letter, Zeff called her an “excellent choice” for chair.
Richard Smith, president of the state NAACP conference, told NJ.com that the organization “is very concerned because we have been at the forefront for marijuana legalization and decriminalization since the beginning.”
“We can be arrested for it, our lives can be ruined by it, and yet it doesn’t appear that we’re good enough to be on the commission.” – Smith via NJ.com
A recent report found Black people in New Jersey were 3.5 times more likely to be arrested for cannabis possession than their white counterparts.
Last week, Rev. Dr. Charles F. Boyer, founder of Salvation and Social Justice, blasted the makeup of the commission on Twitter.
“So is there really no Black man on the cannabis commission?” he Tweeted tagging Murphy, Sweeney, General Assembly Speaker Craig Coughlin, and the NJ NAACP. “You all really only have 1 Black person on this commission total? Wow?”
“So the demographic most targeted by prohibition has no representation on the commission?” he added in a follow-up tweet. “Btw the three of you not one could find a Black man to be on this commission?”
In an interview with the Gothamist, he noted that “there’s no one on the commission who has lived experience with the brutalities of the drug war.”
“There’s no one here who knows what it has been like to have been arrested or incarcerated,” he added. “There’s no one here who was ever in the underground market.”
The commission was fully appointed last week after Murphy signed the legalization package into law.
Get daily cannabis business news updates. Subscribe