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State regulators take a big bite out of the marijuana market
It’s been almost a year since New Jersey voters passed by a 2-1 margin a “Constitutional Amendment to Legalize Marijuana,” as it was misleadingly labeled.
It was misleading because the title would lead you to think that once the amendment passed you might be able to go to the local pot store and buy some “Alice B. Toklas brownies.”
That was the name of the first form of edible marijuana that most Americans ever heard of.
Toklas was the confidante of writer Gertrude Stein on the 1920′s Paris scene. She wrote a book in which she included the recipe for a sort of chocolate fudge laced with cannabis.
“It might provide an entertaining refreshment for a Ladies’ Bridge Club or a chapter meeting of the DAR,” Toklas wrote. “Euphoria and brilliant storms of laughter; ecstatic reveries and extensions of one’s personality on several simultaneous planes are to be complacently expected.”Not in New Jersey. As we approach the first anniversary of that amendment’s passage, the new bureaucracy called “The Cannabis Regulatory Commission” has not yet accomplished the simple task of legalizing marijuana.But the CRC has one major accomplishment: It has prohibited the sale of any marijuana products “resembling food.” The only acceptable edibles will be lozenges.
The regulations exclude brownies, cookies, and those chocolate bars that are so popular with the customers at NJ Weedman’s restaurant/pot dispensary on State Street in Trenton.
The Weedman, otherwise known as Ed Forchion, runs what you might call a “free-market” dispensary. So far the powers-that-be have let his business operate, possibly because it’s the only thriving business on that stretch of State Street.
Forchion is applying for a license. But if he gets one he’ll have to stop selling some of the most popular products in his store.
“Women buy edibles,” he said. “Women don’t want to be smoking in public, so they have a cookie in their purse and then reach in now and then and eat it.”
As for men, the male marijuana users of my acquaintance like nothing more than to bogart a big bone, if I may lapse into jargon.
But towns all over the state are strengthening their anti-smoking ordinances to counter the pot smokers. So why ban the sort of marijuana that produces no fumes?
Evan Nison of the New Jersey Chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML) said that is counter-productive.
“Edibles are important for a lot of reasons,” said Nison. “There are people who don’t want to get something into their lungs. There are landlords who don’t permit any smoking at all. It’s definitely an important category.”
The CRC media people didn’t return my request for comment, so I don’t know their thinking. But Nison said the regulators feel a need to regulate the kitchens where the edibles are manufactured.Weedman said that’s an insult to the people who make the edibles.
“Women dominate the edible field,” he said. “All these local little edible places are all run by women.”
He sells plenty of their products and none of his customers report any problems, he said. But if he has to stop selling those edibles, then a whole lot of his female customers will go back to the black market, he said.
That market’s thriving at the moment. All over the state entrepreneurs are selling marijuana products, often with home delivery.
“You buy some seemingly overpriced item like cookies, hoodies, hats or stickers and the driver can personally choose to also give you the weed or withhold it if you look underage or sketchy,” NJ.com’s Amy Z. Quinn wrote.
Then there are the entrepreneurs who have followed in the Weedman’s footsteps and opened dispensaries. Last week the Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office raided a dispensary in Garfield. Four people were arrested and charged with crimes ranging from money laundering to maintaining a drug production facility.
Well, someone’s got to do it. And the state plainly isn’t up to the task. Last week the Cannabis Regulatory Commission missed a deadline for beginning to accept new applications for business licenses.
That was hardly a shocker. The state still hasn’t processed the applications for medicinal marijuana licenses that were accepted way back in 2019.The issue of edibles may be a small one in the overall scheme of things. But the need to pursue social justice was a prominent topic during the legislative hearings on legalization.
When it comes to social justice, “The black market in edibles is gonna expand and it’s gonna a women-run black market.”
That’s social justice of a sort. But if I may deduce the flaw in the regulators’ reasoning here, it is obvious:
The way to make something legal is to stop making it illegal.
The voters seemed to understand that.
But once the regulators start regulating, they just can’t seem to stop.
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