One of the most influential figures in New Jersey’s legal weed industry will be keynote speaker at the state’s only cannabis career fair on April 5 at Stockton University.
Scott Rudder, a former mayor and state assemblyman, founded the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, the state’s largest industry trade group, which played a major role in the campaign to legalize cannabis here.
Ahead of his talk at the Cannabis Career Fair & Business Expo, co-hosted by NJ Cannabis Insider, the NJCBA and Stockton, Rudder spoke to us about what to expect as the consumer market prepares to open — possible in coming weeks. (Purchase tickets here. Students free) .
Q: You stepped down as president of the NJCBA soon after the 2020 election, when New Jersey voters approved cannabis legalization. Edmund DeVeaux has since been leading the organization. You’re still active as a NJCBA board member. Tell us what you’re up to.
A: With the NJCBA, I was involved last year with helping to craft the bill the ended on the governor’s desk. We all tried to make it as well-rounded as possible, focusing on both the business side of things but also recognizing the social equity and social justice side of the discussion. And now, I’m working with regulators to help make it all a reality. We’re operating under the most recent regulations, but those regulations expire this year in August — which by the way, there’s going to be another round of discussions and public hearings for how the regulations could be amended.
Q: What’s your perspective of where we are now? It’s been a waiting game for legalization for many years to, and now we’re waiting again for the market to open.
A: It’s really interesting where we are because, as as eager as everybody is, it’s taking a little bit longer than some people expected. But when you look at other states, it took every other state a long time to implement their new program, right? It takes a while to develop the rules and regulations to get applications in.
What I really like where we are right now as opposed to previous years, for example, is the process the CRC (Cannabis Regulatory Commission) is implementing today. It really makes it as easy as possible — even though this is hard — to actually get a license. Applicants under these new rules and regs, in which applicants who have a deficiency in their application don’t get rejected forever. They’re actually given the opportunity to fix it. So if your standard operating procedure for security, for example, is deficient, they send it back. So you’re able to fix it.
That’s one of the things that we are really excited about at the NJCBA. What I’m personally excited about as well — when you when you look at what what happened in New Jersey in 2018 and 2019 with lawsuits, which also happened in other states — if your application [missed] one point from the scoring system, then you were out for a period of time until there was another open process.
What we have in 2022 is a continuous open enrollment process. So that if I’m not ready as an applicant, I can apply when I am ready. Right now is dramatically better than where we were just a couple of years ago.
Q: One of the challenges we keep hearing about are obstacles that municipalities are putting up. What are you telling the business community?
A: The state really wanted local municipalities to have a greater say. And that’s a lot of what you see now. That was designed so that you don’t have the thumb of state government over the entire process of trying to micromanage like, for example, how a town wants to zone.
At the end of the day, though, in some of these municipalities where everything is so tight, where things are so densely populated, there are some towns you just couldn’t operate in period — because everywhere you look there was a church or a school or a public institution or what have you.
So now you’re seeing there’s some towns that are so excited to get cannabis businesses so they can reap the benefits of this new program. And there are other towns that come out with torches and pitchforks because they don’t want it there. So not every town is going to be the same even though cannabis was overwhelmingly approved by the voters in just about every single town.
A lot of these pockets of opposition are going to be resolved through education or comfort level. We saw this in Colorado, where 70% of the towns opted out of legalization. That’s a surprise to a lot of people who don’t follow the cannabis industry. They had a lot of the town that had the same issues we have. Their concerns were based on antiquated information, outdated studies or just blunt misinformation about what cannabis is and it’s not and how it impacts community. It’s a minority of people who actually feel that way. But once we get past that, I think it’s going to be a very wide open market.
This conversation was edited for clarity.
In addition to Rudder, the cannabis career fair will include panels and CannaTalks, featuring speakers from Columbia Care, Curaleaf, former city legislators, compliance professionals and experts on hemp/CBD and manufacturing.
Employers and vendors will also be on hand for speed interviews and networking, including, the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association (the spotlight sponsor); Columbia Care (headshot sponsor); Longview Strategic; The Botanist; HBK CPA; ATH NJ; Earth & Ivy; TerrAscend; Puffin and New Jersey CannaBusiness Association.
This is the second career fair NJ Cannabis Insider, New Jersey CannaBusiness Assn. and Stockton University have co-hosted.