Gov. Murphy names cannabis regulatory chief

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    The state capitol in Trenton. FILE PHOTO

    TRENTON — Gov. Phil Murphy on Friday morning appointed Dianna Houenou, his associate counsel, as chair of the state’s new Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which will be charged with shaping the state’s cannabis laws. Prior to joining the Murphy administration, Ms. Houenou spent several years with the American Civil Liberties Union, working on the fight to legalize marijuana.

    Jeff Brown, who currently serves as assistant commissioner of health in charge of the state’s division of medicinal marijuana, was appointed as executive director.

    The appointments follow Tuesday’s voter approval, by a two-to-one margin, of a constitutional amendment legalizing recreational marijuana for adults in New Jersey. The Garden State joins 14 states and the District of Columbia in decriminalizing marijuana.

    “For me and for so many others in our administration and across the state, this is a matter of social justice, racial justice, economic justice, and at the end of all that, flat-out common sense,” Gov. Murphy said. “I am proud that New Jersey is now joining the other states which have similarly come to recognize that our outdated marijuana laws really ended up doing little more than sending predominantly black and brown, mostly young men, to jail and thereby limiting their potential and harming our communities and in some cases, changing their lives for the rest of their lives.

    “I look forward to working with the Legislature to swiftly pass enabling legislation that will set up a regulatory framework for adult use marijuana,” the governor added.

    Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal on Thursday issued a statement noting that recreational marijuana is still illegal in New Jersey until such legislation is passed.

    However, he added that “Some may misinterpret or misunderstand the consequences of the Amendment and possess or use marijuana right away, assuming that it is lawful. Given this, law enforcement officers and prosecutors are reminded of their broad discretion when handling low-level marijuana offenses.”
    Gov. Murphy said: “I do hope that in the spirit of what happened on Tuesday, and the Attorney General has said this, to his credit, that discretion is the word of the day.” 

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