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NEW JERSEY (PIX11) — What was once considered a stain on his record is now proving to be a blessing in disguise for Somerset resident Alex Stone, in the newly established recreational cannabis market in New Jersey. 

“Upon getting my felony [for possession], my wife left me, I lost my kids — arguably I was a millionaire and I lost everything,” Stone told PIX11.

Newly adopted regulations released this week give priority to applicants with past cannabis-related criminal offenses, among other criteria. 

It’s now opening a door to opportunity in the Garden State for the entrepreneur.

“It was a breath of fresh air,” Stone said. “The true measure will be: do licenses end up in hands like mine, and does the face of the business change?”

The first set of rules issued by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission are being described as progressive by advocates, where regulations favor not only those negatively impacted by weed, but those that have been systemically been socially disadvantaged.

Under the rules, local entrepreneurs not only have an advantage over out-of-state operators, but if you’re a woman, a racial minority, disabled veteran or you’d operate in a municipality unevenly affected by marijuana, your application moves to the top. 

Jessica Gonzalez is a New Jersey based attorney representing nearly a dozen applicants.

“It is going to allow folks a meaningful opportunity to participate,” Gonzalez told PIX11. “I think in the past, the opportunity has been there, but the barriers to entry have been so high.”

With the regulations now in place, the commission is expected to announce in the coming weeks when sales in New Jersey can start. 

For Stone, who is hopeful for his venture YERRR CANNABIS IN NJ, the tide is certainly turning — but cautiously. 

“There are a lot of people in this world who need help, and this plant could really change things,” he said. “People just need to change their perspective.”