New Jersey’s governor is teaming up with a coalition of major cannabis brands to launch a campaign meant to educate and encourage consumers about the risks of buying marijuana products outside of regulated markets.
The U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC) is leading the “Buy Legal” effort, which was announced on Thursday in New Orleans at the Black CannaBiz Expo.
Marijuana companies including Canopy Growth, Columbia Care, Cresco Labs, Cronos Group, Curaleaf, Jushi, PAX, Viola and Wana are signed on as partners for the campaign, which is also being supported by New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D).
“Since adult-use cannabis became legal in our state in 2021, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission has established a well-regulated adult-use cannabis market that has catalyzed economic growth in our local communities and established minimum standards for safe products,” Murphy said in a press release.
“But like many other products, cannabis is not immune to the persistent illegal market, which poses a serious risk to consumers,” he said. “As states like New Jersey continue to refine a regulatory framework for adult use of cannabis, our local businesses and consumers would greatly benefit from the resources that the Buy Legal campaign provides. This campaign will help protect the ability of local, regulated cannabis enterprises to continue to do business in a way that is safe and accountable, and protect the safety of consumers while reinvesting in communities.”
The campaign will involve promoting a “Buy Legal” label for marijuana products that meet the coalition’s standards.
“Cannabis consumers need to understand where they can buy high-quality, safe, and tested cannabis products, and minority cannabis businesses owners deserve the resources that a national campaign like this can provide in order to encourage customers to shop at their businesses,” USCC CEO Khadijah Tribble said in a press release on Thursday.
Former NBA player and CEO of Viola Al Harrington added that the campaign “comes at such an important time in the cannabis industry.”
“To truly create equitable opportunities for generational wealth in our community, things like this must be done,” he said. “Now more than ever it’s imperative to educate consumers on the importance of buying regulated, safe products.”
Part of the urgency, the campaign said, is that people continue to buy marijuana products in unregulated markets across the U.S., even in states where cannabis is legal for adult use. That comes with a set of public health and safety concerns that the organization hopes to help ameliorate.
“As one of the first Black women to own a licensed dispensary in the U.S., I am concerned about the proliferation of unregulated cannabis enterprises that are not required to meet the same testing and safety standards as businesses like mine,” Linda Mercado Greene, CEO of Anacostia Organics in Washington, D.C., which is a founding partner of the campaign, said.
“A customer can’t possibly know what’s in an unregulated supply, and if someone is harmed by an unregulated product, that sows distrust in our industry and ultimately hurts licensed, regulated cannabis businesses,” she said.
For the marijuana companies participating in the campaign, it seems like a win-win scenario—where consumers are both being encouraged to buy from licensed businesses including those owned by those very corporations, while they argue that there’s also a public health and policy interest in helping to stamp out illicit sellers.
But it also comes at a time of heightened tension where supporters of unlicensed legacy sellers of cannabis, including those that operate so-called “gifting” shops in places like the District of Columbia, New York and elsewhere are pushing back against proposed crackdowns.
The Buy Legal website, for its part, points out that the 2019 electronic vape lung injury crisis has been widely linked to unlicensed products being sold outside of a regulated marketplace, which was the subject of a recent study that indicated that state-level legalization may have provided a “protective” factor in the health crisis.
It also discusses the broader concern about consumers being exposed to contaminated cannabis products in unregulated spaces, the lack of potency labeling accuracy in the illicit market and the unsanctioned marketing trend where some operators have sought to sell marijuana items under major brand names that they aren’t actually affiliated with.
“Legal cannabis is more than just consumption; it’s empowerment,” the campaign site argues. “Buy Legal is a national campaign that seeks to unite the industry and cannabis culture around a safe, legal and regulated marketplace. We believe that every American should understand the benefits of high-quality, regulated cannabis products purchased from the legal market.”
Photo courtesy of WeedPornDaily.