New Jersey: Can a cannabis dealer transition from the legacy market into the legal space?

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The cannabis industry often provides projections on the billions that are made by the adult-use and medical market. There is, however, a projection that’s often left out of the conversation when it comes to legalized cannabis — the economics of the legacy market that came before it and bore the brunt of the casualties in the War on Drugs.

 

An estimated $4.6 billion in annual cannabis sales happen in New York alone, the majority of which is driven by that very same market, and the integration of that market into a legalized one is an absolute must, says Dasheeda Dawson, the Cannabis Health Equity Movement (CHEM) chief strategy officer and co-founder of the Cannabis Education Advocacy Symposium & Expo (CEASE). Dawson also runs the Weedhead & Company, a lifestyle cannabis brand that’s structured around education and e-commerce.

 
 

“Now is the time to innovate regulation and thoughtfully incorporate legacy operations into the emerging markets in New Jersey and New York,” Dawson said. “We must learn from their successes and shortfalls, absorb the knowledge and expertise of longtime operators, and offer them a space in the industry, rather than criminalization and exclusion.”

 
 

In order to tackle that very topic, Dawson is putting together a five-hour virtual conference, presented by Weedmaps, titled “Legacy to Legal: Transitioning into a Regulated Cannabis Market,” that will talk about New York and New Jersey.

 
 

The conference is scheduled to take place Friday from 5-10 p.m.

 
 

New York State Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes is set to deliver the keynote.

 
 

Peoples-Stokes played a pivotal role in forming recently legalized cannabis legislation within New York and advocated for social equity measures to be contained within the law.

 

“We fought long and hard for equity-centered legalization that provides investment and restoration to communities battered by the War on Drugs. Now, we must work to ensure that those most harmed by prohibition reap the benefits of the blossoming industry,” Peoples-Stokes said. “I’m proud to support the Legacy to Legal education series because it brings Black and brown entrepreneurs who’ve been working in the shadows to the table so that they can be part of New York’s adult-use market. In order for legal cannabis to be equitable, we must integrate them into our framework. These events are a powerful start to that process.”

 
 

In addition to provisions in New Jersey that support minorities, those provisions should also focus on adding in the formerly incarcerated so that they have a chance to run their own businesses, said cannabis activist and Trenton-based consultant Leo Bridgewater.

 
 

“Cash out, cash in,” said Bridgewater, who will also be speaking at the Friday conference. “Cash out of the legacy market and cash in to the adult-use market. Everyone that I know I tell them ‘get out of the game, your customers are about to go somewhere.’”

 
 

Providing an amnesty period for legacy operators would provide an effective transition for them to come out of the dark, Bridgewater said.

 
 

“If the state gives an amnesty period where you can come to light in some kind of way, that’s literally turning the legacy market inside out if you think about it,” he said.

 
 

Legacy operators having a chance to participate in the market as business owners is a form of equity said Vladimir Bautista, co-founder of New York-based cannabis lifestyle brand Happy Munkey.

 
 

“Legalization allows us to run legitimate businesses and be part of the industry that we helped create,” Bautista said. “I want to make sure that others have a chance at success. That means access to capital and a voice in local regulations. Legacy to Legal will help those looking to transition understand the opportunity and find their voice. It’s time for us to have a seat at the table.”

 

Other industry power players who are scheduled to speak include, Jessica Gonzalez of Minorities for Medical Marijuana, Faye Coleman, Founder & CEO of Pure Genesis, Dr. Rachel Knox, CHEM co-founder and president, Shaleen Title, co-founder & vice chair for the Cannabis Regulators of Color Coalition and The Dank Duchess, a renowned hashish maker and cannabis cultivator.

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