September 11, 2019

Cannabis Conference To Explore Challenges, Choices, Opportunities

By Donald Gilpin

“The Color of Cannabis,” a conference sponsored by the Capital City Area Black Caucus along with large contingent of other organizations and individuals, will examine what cannabis legalization will mean for New Jersey today, Wednesday, September 11, 5-8 p.m. at the James Kerney Campus of Mercer County Community College at 102 North Broad Street in Trenton.

With a wide array of speakers and panelists from the political, medical, education, business, and law enforcement communities, the one-day session, subtitled “Taking a Seat at the Table, Guiding the Conversation, and Following the Money,” will examine challenges, choices, and opportunities lying ahead as cannabis legalization, conference organizers assume, eventually works its way through the state legislature.

“It’s coming,” said CCABC co-founder, former Princeton resident, and conference moderator John Bailey. “What’s more important is that equity has to play a role here.”

Noting that the median income of African American citizens of New Jersey is only half that of their white counterparts and that African Americans are five times more likely to be arrested than white residents of N.J., Bailey warned of economic disparities in the cannabis industry too. “You can’t put all those African Americans in prison all those years then build a cannabis industry that doesn’t include them,” he said. “It’s important to figure out how to stop pursuing equity and start actualizing equity.”

He continued, “This discussion will allow us to put things on the table, to engage, to educate, to get a sense of where we are. We have to figure out how to make those opportunities available for more people.”

The conference will include an opening address by Mercer County Freeholder Sam Frisby, a recognition of N.J. cannabis advocates and acknowledgement of conference sponsors, a CCABC NJ Cannabis Leadership Discussion, and panel discussions led by experts on the public safety and law enforcement challenges, on community viewpoints and choices, and on business viewpoints and opportunities.

“We are at a historic moment in New Jersey, where once the legislation to legalize cannabis passes, the equity, diversity, accountability, and inclusion question being addressed at this session will force us all to do better and to look at ways to make a positive impact on New Jersey citizens, especially in Trenton,” said former Trenton mayor and CCABC Founder Doug Palmer, who will be speaking in the opening session of the conference.

“We have convened an unbelievable list of speakers and sponsors for this event,” said Frisby. “There is a lot happening in New Jersey and Trenton around this cannabis issue and we need to stay woke, because, as the title says, there will be challenges, choices, and opportunity in the cannabis industry and I want us to be prepared to be engaged and invested in what happens in Mercer County.”