Vanessa Williams

Name: Vanessa Williams

Company: Rutgers Law School

Share your elevator pitch. In one sentence, what do you do in the cannabis industry?

As Assistant Dean of New Programs at Rutgers Law School, I’ve spent the last six months developing our new Certificate in Cannabis Law and Business, a six-month program aimed at supporting entrepreneurs and license holders in running fully compliant cannabis businesses.

How did you get involved in the cannabis industry?

Rutgers Law School has had a class in ‘Marijuana Law’ since 2018. When I started here in January 2022, I quickly learned that the legalization of cannabis is big news for New Jersey – and as the state university, I was convinced we needed to be part of supporting our community via educational programming.

Share a bit about your professional background. What, specifically, makes you well-equipped to serve clients in the cannabis industry?

The instructors involved in our Certificate in Cannabis Law and Business are all experts in their fields. We have faculty from Rutgers schools of law, business, environmental and biological sciences, and communication and information, who are closely collaborating with industry experts to design the curriculum. I’ve also spent the last few months building my network so that we can invite some terrific guest speakers to be part of the program, so that participants will really hear from people who are doing this on a daily basis.

What do you feel is most promising about New Jersey’s cannabis industry?

As someone who has only been involved in the industry for the last few months, I’ve been overwhelmed by how much of a community and network the industry really is. Everyone seems so on-board and has been willing to introduce me to their contacts, who in turn introduce me to their contacts, and so on. I think that’s a really special thing, and one that speaks to the commitment of people involved with the industry in New Jersey.

Why did you join NJCBA? How do you anticipate NJCBA helping your business?

NJCBA was one of the first organizations that I reached out to to learn more about what’s going on in New Jersey. Their help and connections, and great online and in-person events, showed me that they’re a vital part of New Jersey’s cannabis industry.

Care to share a favorite NJCBA membership moment?

I don’t have one yet – I’ve only just joined! But even before I joined, I got to attend a couple of events, and was really struck by everyone’s friendliness and willingness to talk with me.

Provide one piece of advice you’d give to someone who’s considering working in cannabis.

Join our certificate program! Haha, what a blatant plug. But seriously, figuring out what gaps there are in your knowledge, and then figuring out the best way for you to fill them – is it hiring someone else with that expertise? Is it finding an education program that’s going to specifically address those gaps? Is it talking to other people in your network who might have the information you need? From working on this certificate program with our subject matter experts, I know that the state and federal rules and regulations are complex, and if you don’t know something, you need to know how to find the answer.

Tell us about your favorite Jersey spot. What would you do in the Garden State on your day off?

I spend most of my time working at Rutgers’ Camden campus, but I haven’t yet had a chance to visit Donkey’s Place. I definitely need to make it over there in one of my lunchbreaks!