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New licenses, new opportunities

Oct 28, 2023

We lost a champion for cannabis legalization and reform in Sheila Oliver, the lifelong Garden State politician who died this week. We’ve included in this issue a list of possible picks Gov. Phil Murphy may consider, according to political insiders. Back in early 2019 (Issue 53), OIiver said, “The issue of legalization should be examined and should be embraced just for social justice alone…It’s time for us to embark down this road.”

As we head into the second year of being on that road, we can look forward to the new category licenses opening up for applications on Sept. 27. The CRC continues to update its website, including the application page, which reiterated many of the big points our recent CRC speakers made at our summer meetup. If you haven’t already, bookmark this page as a reference guide to how to ensure your application meets the state agency’s criteria.

On that note, we’re planning on an encore presentation by CRC staff at our Oct. 12 conference at the Double Tree Hilton Newark Airport. We’ll hear first-hand their experience scoring applications and the most common mistakes made and how to avoid them.

Among other big topics covered will be the new licenses — Wholesale, Distribution and Delivery — real estate (site-control), construction (buildouts), site operation procedures (SOPs). We’ll also delve into funding (raising capital), compliance and best practices as well as how your business can stand out in a competitive and expanding market.

We will also bring back our Discovery Areas for Women-owned Businesses, Social Equity Businesses and Education & The Future Workforce. In between all that, we’ll have another speed-networking session with color-coded name tags so you know who to meet, and as always, a killer lineup of speakers.

Use your subscriber discount code for 25% off to secure your spot: NJCISUB Remember we had to turn away some 70 people on our waitlist in the spring.

As I mentioned last week, we’re revamping how we deliver news and information in a timely manner. Always eager to hear what you’re working on.

Lastly, we want to thank Heather Long, who was our sponsorships sales lead, for all the great work she’s done for us. Today was her last day. We wish her all the best in her next endeavor. If you have sponsorship queries, please contact me or our tireless events manager, Kristen Ligas.

I’m heading to Southern California to visit family for a couple weeks as of next Tuesday. So, I’ll catchup upon my return. Send those story tips to Jelani Gibson, while I’m out.

Take care and until next time…

— Enrique Lavín, publisher and editor

The New Jersey Society of CPAs held a conference this week that was full of takeaways with familiar insiders. Let’s get to it and talk about some of the contextual importance behind it.

Sen. Troy Singleton took a victory lap for the legislation that was passed in conjunction with the NJCPA that decoupled some taxes to make it easier for businesses to deduct at the state level.

Singleton also mentioned how a bill that would provide homegrow for medical patients has been introduced but is still in the chamber.

Singleton was one of the largest proponents of bringing cannabis prices down at the previous Senate Judiciary Hearing. More open businesses can do that, but homegrow could also do the same thing, since it would put current cultivators on notice that if the price is too high, they would risk driving people to do it themselves or continue with the legacy market.

One of the largest factors in this — is someone Singleton has credited as his ally — Senate President Nicholas Scutari — who has been lukewarm to the idea.

Scutari has repeatedly expressed concerns about how homegrow could contribute to an additional supply of unregulated cannabis. Medical advocates have repeatedly pointed out, however, that such a thing usually only takes place when there are no limits on homegrow.

While Singleton was critical of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission’s performance at the recent hearing, his words were more complimentary to the state of the market at the conference.

In the end, how the marketplace performs is not just a reflection of the regulators, but also a reflection of the legislature. Both of their fates are intertwined.

Banking was also bought up as an issue in addition to the unorthodox ways in which businesses still have to operate.

SAFE Banking was mentioned, but year after year the bill has more often than not failed due to the split nature of the U.S. Congress in general.

Last week we did a Q&A that also covered New Jersey’s promise for public banking. The Governor put together an executive order, but after that, little materialized. Critics have also charged that the concept went from being a public bank, to being filled with banking interests that essentially made the entire idea dead in the water on purpose.

The New Jersey cannabis industry, however, does have the chance and access to press legislators on the status of where the concept stands.

Stacey Udell of HBK CPAs, Jeff Gittler of PKF O’Connor Davies and Todd Polyniak of Sax LLP all gave interesting insights into the risk that accountants themselves take when they want to get into cannabis.

The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) website has guidance and takes a state-by-state approach in the same way that cannabis legislation does.

That can either be a good thing or a bad thing depending on which way the state wants to go in terms of allowing their accountants autonomy to stay in good standing and provide services.

“It’s up to the practitioners to really speak about ‘how do we want to manage on our end, the cannabis industry,’ Polyniak said.

Gittler also brought up the dynamic of how accountants are going to deal with legacy clients who may have no business to legally show.

Polyniak broached this topic as well in a previous Q&A we did with him, citing both state tax amnesty and federal tax amnesty as some of the keys to making sure it was easier for that demographic to get in the industry.

Udell noted that the most successful people are going to be people who know how to network for niches that are valuable for their ancillary business.

“I don’t have to know everything, I just have to know who to go to,” she said.

Overall takeaway:

Whether it’s accounting, banking or medical practice, it seems that highly credentialed professions with accrediting bodies are having a reckoning with the bargain of states legalizing something that is still federally legal.

The right for ancillary businesses to engage in the cannabis ecosystem will be the key to a growing market. How those rights get enumerated whether it be under federal legalization or putting cannabis into a new scheduling category — is going to define the amount of people that are able to access those services and how capable the ancillary industry is of growing to meet that need.

By Avraham Hirschey of 5S Security — a fully licensed, bonded, and insured security guard firm in New Jersey. 5S Security provides some of the highest levels of service available while maintaining an affordable rate to the customer, consistent with the needs of the cannabis industry. Find him on LinkedIn.

Security has evolved over the past decade. It is becoming more and more common to see a security presence almost everywhere we go. Cannabis dispensaries need additional security measures than that of the average business. Proper security is paramount to ensure a successful cannabis business is run. Here are the five most frequently asked questions we get:

1. What should I know about a security company to ensure they are properly vetted?

2. Why should I hire a licensed security guard company when it is cheaper to hire internal security?

3. What should I expect from my security guard company?

4. If I’m dissatisfied with my current security provider, how can I terminate the contract and switch to a different security company without being sued for breach of contract?

5. Can proper security really deter a robbery attempt at my facility?

The death of New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver on Tuesday requires Gov. Phil Murphy to pick her successor in the next 45 days, but don’t expect him to make that decision soon.

Oliver was known as a supporter of the cannabis legislation.

New Jersey CannaBusiness Association President Scott Rudder issued a statement on the passing.

“When I began in the Legislature, my first Committee assignment was the Assembly Human Services Committee, of which, then-Assemblywoman Oliver was Chair,” he said. “She was passionate, compassionate and strong in her convictions. More often than not, we found ourselves in agreement, despite our political differences, and we bonded over our ability to debate honestly and professionally. When she became Speaker, she again projected strength and a desire to bring different ideas together.”

“Her legacy and impact on New Jersey will be felt for generations,” Rudder said. “This is a tremendous loss.”

A Murphy spokeswoman declined to discuss the topic Wednesday, saying the governor is focused first on prepping for Oliver’s funeral services, which have not yet been announced. Murphy is expected to cut short a vacation to Italy and return to New Jersey on Thursday, his office said.

Oliver, 71, who had been suffering from a long illness she never publicly disclosed, died one day after being admitted to the hospital while serving as acting governor in Murphy’s absence.

New Jersey’s lieutenant governor since she and Murphy came into office in 2018, Oliver was praised by politicians of both parties Tuesday as a trailblazer and an effective leader.

The choice of replacement is Murphy’s alone. He does not need confirmation from the state Senate.

Though deliberations haven’t begun in earnest and involve only a few people, the Democratic governor is likely to consider a handful of candidates to succeed Oliver, according to political insiders who requested anonymity to speak publicly about the situation.

It’s expected the top contenders will be women of color, including some already in Murphy’s cabinet or serving in the state Legislature, the sources said.

Oliver was not only the first Black woman to be lieutenant governor but the first woman of color to hold statewide office in New Jersey history.

“Throughout his public life in New Jersey, the governor has made diversity a priority,” said Ben Dworkin, director of the Rowan Institute for Public Policy & Citizenship at Rowan University. “To not replace the state’s first Black female lieutenant governor with another woman of color would be surprising.”

Here is a look at who insiders believe are potential candidates for the job:

New Jersey Secretary of State. Tahesha Way.

As Secretary of State, Tahesha Way is New Jersey’s top election official. She was one of Murphy’s pick cabinet picks shortly after he won the 2017 election. She is also president of the National Association of Secretaries of State.

Her long career in public service includes stints as an administrative law judge and a member and director of the Passaic County Board of Commissioners. She was also special counsel to the Passaic County Board of Social Services and a member for the New Jersey Highlands Water Protection and Planning Council. She is the former president of the Women Empowered Democratic Organization of Passaic County.

Way, 53, graduated from Brown University and the University of Virginia School of Law at Charlottesville.

Assemblywoman Shavonda Sumter, (l), and Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver at the Statehouse in Trenton in this undated photo.

Shavonda Sumter already wears many hats: She is a member of the state Assembly representing part of Bergen and Passaic counties since 2012, chairwoman of the New Jersey Black Legislative Caucus since 2022, and president and CEO of the nonprofit Children’s Aid and Family Services, also since last year.

She has vast experience in health care, having served as assistant vice president at Hackensack Meridian Mountainside Medical Center in Montclair, the director of Business Development at Bergen New Bridge Medical Center in Paramus, and director of Business Development at Summit Oaks Hospital in Summit.

Sumter, 49, also hosts a public issues podcast for WBGO 88.3-FM called “There’s Sumter About It.”

She is one of the few on Murphy’s list seen as a possible future candidate for governor if she became lieutenant governor first.

NJ Assemblywoman Britnee Timberlake hold picture of her great aunt while speaking at a rally in support of Abortion Rights at Rutgers University campus in Newark, N.J., Monday, May, 9, 2022Ed Murray | NJ Advance Media for

A Democratic rising star, Britnee Timberlake has represented sections of Essex and Passaic counties in the Assembly since 2018 — when she took over Oliver’s seat after the former speaker became lieutenant governor. Could she now replace Oliver in that position?

Timberlake, who chairs the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee, is currently running for a state Senate seat in November.

She is also executive director for the Essex Community Land Trust. Timberlake, 37, holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Seton Hall University.

Elizabeth Maher Muoio, New Jersey State Treasurer, speaks during a hearing on the FY 2024 budget in The New Jersey State House Annex in Trenton on Wednesday, May 17, 2023.Julian Leshay | For NJ Advance Media

Elizabeth Maher Muoio was serving in the Assembly representing portions of Hunterdon and Mercer counties when Murphy selected her to be his state treasurer five years ago.

She served as director of the Mercer County Office of Economic Development and Sustainability from 2008 to January 2018. She was elected to the Pennington Borough Council and served from 1997 to 2002, and the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders (now known as Commissioners) from 2000-08, serving as chairwoman in 2004.

Muoio, 60, earned her law degree from Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and her undergraduate degree from Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut.

There are a few other potential picks, including state Senate Majority Leader Teresa Ruiz, D-Essex; Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds-Jackson, D-Mercer; Assemblywoman Eliana Pintor Marin, D-Essex; and Amy Kennedy, a former Democratic congressional candidate and the education director of the Kennedy Forum, a mental health advocacy group founded by her husband, former U.S. Rep. Patrick J. Kennedy.

— Brent Johnson, Matt Arco and Sue Livio | NJ Advance Media Research Editor Vinessa Erminio contributed to this report. NJCI reporter Jelani Gibson contributed to this report. Another version of this article without mention of the NJCBA showed up on as a paywalled subscriber exclusive. NJCI subscribers get it for free, along with additional quotes from cannabis insiders.

— NJCI Staff

For cannabis recruitment solutions please contact Deneen Wright, [email protected] or call 201-324-5092.

Publisher & editor : Enrique Lavín, [email protected]

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Jelani Gibson is the lead reporter for Cannabis Insider. He previously covered gun violence for the Kansas City Star.

Susan K. Livio is a Statehouse reporter for The Star-Ledger and who covers health, social policy and politics

Publisher & editor Events manager Events producer Technical supportSubscriptionsJelani Gibson Susan K. Livio