03 November 2022 |

New Jersey Gov. and cannabis brands like Cresco team up for “Buy Legal” campaign

By Kaitlin Domangue

The “Buy Legal” campaign coming from cannabis brands, and New Jersey’s governor

Gov. Phil Murphy is teaming up with major cannabis brands for a campaign encouraging consumers to buy legal cannabis. The effort is led by The U.S. Cannabis Council (USCC)

Curaleaf, Jushi, Pax, Wana Brands, Cresco Labs, Columbia Care, Canopy Growth, and more are partners of the Buy Legal campaign. The goal is to direct consumers away from the illicit market and to the regulated market, where products go through testing. 

“It is an honor to partner with the US Cannabis Council as the first elected official for the Buy Legal campaign. 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,” said New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy 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. 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 Buy Legal campaign highlights the 2019 Vape Crisis as an example of why it’s important to purchase regulated products, as well as reminding consumers that illicit products aren’t tested for contaminants like pesticides, hard metals, or mold. 

A stark difference from New York’s testing protocol 

Interestingly, this campaign is coming simultaneously with New York’s decision to remove the pass/fail limits of yeast, mold, and bacteria testing. This is just another display of the current state of the U.S. cannabis market: fragmented and inconsistent. 

While New Jersey’s governor is fighting for consumers to buy legal cannabis, New York is forgoing certain testing that dwindles transparency for the consumer. It’s not to pit the two moves against each other but rather highlight the drastic difference between every state’s market. 

Home grows are illegal in New Jersey, so the only option for legal cannabis is through the regulated market, which is a concern for some people. But Gov. Phil Murphy said that should be “revisited.”

Buy Legal says their partners include a diverse range of perspectives – from singular minority-owned businesses to multi-state operators, from celebrity brands to policymakers – we believe in the importance of a healthy, well-regulated cannabis industry.” 

NY Office of Cannabis Management removes pass/fail limits of certain tests.

The New York Office of Cannabis Management eliminated cannabis testing for yeast, bacteria, and mold.

An email was sent to operators yesterday about the change. The pass/fail limits for mold, yeast, and bacteria have been completely removed. The state will still run these tests, but no defined limit for “unextracted cannabis products.” 

The email says, “it is the responsibility of the licensee to consider these results and any impact to the stability and expiration dating of the product, as well as any risks to the health of consumers.”

Some New York cultivators recently expressed their disdain for the limits, claiming their products wouldn’t reach the store’s shelves with these imposed limits. 

A week ago, the Director of the Cannabis Association of New York, Dan Livingston, said he had “every faith that the OCM is going to recognize the existential threat” the testing limits pose to cultivators and this year’s harvest” to NY Cannabis Insider. 

Regulators removed the pass/fail limits a few days later. 

The concern for consumer safety

To be blunt: this alarms me. 

If the limits are not supported by scientific evidence, remove them. But the concern stemmed from the cultivator’s harvest being impacted and their products not making it to the shelf. What about the consumer? Is this a safe move for them? 

The Office of Cannabis Management does state they will “monitor these laboratory testing results, and licensees may be required to conduct further testing where results indicate concerns with product quality or safety,” but what does that look like in practice? 

This move might help cultivators land a spot on the shelves, but without further clarification: it’s not instilling confidence or providing transparency for New York’s consumers.

Cannabis is the United States’ sixth-largest cash crop

What do ya know? Cannabis is valuable. 

Leafly’s 2022 Cannabis Harvest Report concluded that cannabis is the sixth most valuable cash crop in the United States – but that’s not reflected in USDA reports because it’s federally illegal.

The Department of Labor doesn’t track cannabis jobs for the same reason, and Leafly releases annual job reports to fill in the gap. The 2022 Harvest Report is compiled of data from tax reports, state cannabis production totals, field measurements, expert interviews, and more. 

Just five crops – corn, soybeans, hay, wheat, and cotton – outpace cannabis in U.S. agriculture. Corn has an annual wholesale value of $82.6 billion, and cannabis’ wholesale value is $5 billion. 

There are 15 U.S. states with adult-use dispensaries open for business. There are 13,297 active & legal cannabis farms in these 15 states, and they are growing a record 2,834 metric tons of cannabis. 

That’s enough to fill 15,000 dump trucks, btw.

More problems than counting the crop

Cannabis farmers aren’t counted in USDA reports, but that’s the least of their concerns. They also:

  • Have higher insurance rates than traditional farmers
  • Can’t access disaster relief, which especially hurts cannabis farmers in California’s wildfire zone
  • Pay high application fees, totaling $70,000+ in some scenarios
  • Can’t secure traditional banking or loans, limiting their access to capital 

The absence of federal legalization continues to hurt cannabis farmers, who provide billions of dollars to the American economy. Cannabis prohibition fuels the illicit market and destroys small cannabis businesses.