by Jackie Hajdenberg
On July 2nd, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is expected to sign the Jake Honig Compassionate Use Medical Cannabis Act into law, easing restrictions on medical marijuana by “[raising] the monthly amount permitted to 3 ounces per patient and it will also allow New Jersey residents to purchase edibles and oils if they hold a medical marijuana card” (Grizzle.com). Another major component of this bill is the expansion of licenses granted to businesses that wish to dispense medical marijuana products, which will total up to 24, including five cultivation endorsements, up to 15 dispensary endorsements, and up to four vertically integrated permits (New Jersey Department of Health). In anticipation of this bill, hemp and wellness company Delta Flora hosted their rooftop launch event at Kearny Point this past Thursday, and celebrated with vendors, drinks, and yoga led by Salam Diri of Sanna CBD Yoga, who also spoke as a panelist.
Founders of Delta Flora, Frank Beatrice and Vincent Oliver, aim to establish much more than purely lucrative ventures; they are also interested in “fostering a community through [monthly] & bi-monthly events.” Additionally, they offer business consultation to new and existing companies in the cannabis industry.
Why the name “Delta Flora”? “Delta means constant change,” Mr. Beatrice explains. “Change in people, moods, health and life. And Flora is, obviously, flower—we have our roots in nature.”
Featured speakers included Wanda James, Stu Zakim, Jess Gonzalez and Rosemarie Matos. Ms. James is the first African American person to own a cannabis dispensary in the United States while Mr. Zakim is a corporate communications and marketing professional. Ms. Gonzalez and Ms. Matos are both lawyers focusing on cannabis law and specifically aim to facilitate licensing for women and people of color.
Ms. James and the other speakers shared their pearls of wisdom to the 100 or so guests, who are largely interested in entering the cannabis industry. “Honestly, you’re going to lose $500,000. You are absolutely, 100% going to lose at least that,” she shared half-jokingly.
Since part of Delta Flora’s mission is to “[bring] safe, natural, and ecologically-friendly wellness products to current and emerging markets,” the rooftop event also introduced two medical professionals who use cannabis in treating their patients, and whose work will be directly affected by the bill. Dr. Mary Clifton, a plant-based internist, was first introduced to medical marijuana in the end-of-life arena. “I had a couple of experiences… with the deaths of people that were very close to me. I typically manage death through a hospice nurse—I’m not actually at the bedside—but these were two people that I loved enough that I was the one administering drugs at the bedside and turning the patient after several hours. And [there were] utterly, entirely different death experiences with and without cannabis…”
While there have been a number of small studies that suggest the efficacy of medical marijuana, she considers their results powerful, and Dr. Clifton is optimistic about the use of cannabis in medicine overall. In response to recent movements to legalize medical marijuana, I asked Dr. Clifton if she thought that pharmaceutical companies might one day be interested in participating in the industry. “Oh yeah,” she said. “This industry is exploding financially.”
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Laura Lagano also spoke about the healing powers of cannabis, and especially in its incorporation into our diets. She suggests that cannabis “really integrates very well with an anti-inflammatory food plan,” citing a need for a more individualistic approach to treating patients. “We’re always looking at the individual because there’s such a thing as biochemical individuality… Every single person is so, so different. I can actually have two patients with the exact same clinical presentation, meaning they look the same, their symptoms are similar, but what they need is different. What they need is different for diet, for supplementation, for movement, for everything. So that’s gonna be the same for cannabis.”
I asked Ms. Lagano what people can eat to lead healthier lives. Her response? “Certainly people need to be eating more vegetables. Everybody knows that but nobody really does it.” She expands: “The three most important things in eating well and living a good life, are planning, planning, planning. So we know that mothers always have that diaper bag for babies. You can’t get stuck with a baby without having diapers and a change of clothes, and snacks, and toys, and all those good things that babies require. And mothers wouldn’t think of going out of the house without that bag. But yet, as we get older, we’re all babies. And we all need to have that diaper bag. We all need to have that.”
The aspiring entrepreneurs in the audience paid close attention to the panelists’ advice, mingling and networking in between, and left Kearny Point with a glimmer in their eyes, imagining a future for themselves in the cannabis industry.
Jackie Hajdenberg is a writer based in New York and an alum of Barnard College. You can follow her on Twitter @DrJackieMrsHajd.