Booker aide tapped for marijuana panel after NAACP pressure

New Jersey

TRENTON, N.J. — New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has named a staffer for U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and member of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network to the new state commission charged with setting up and regulating recreational marijuana.

Charles Barker’s nomination came after the state NAACP pointed out that the five-member board did not include any Black men.

Barker is Black. New Jersey voters approved recreational marijuana for those 21 and older in November, but it took until February for lawmakers and Murphy to hash out legislation setting up the marketplace.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission will, according to the state, regulate New Jersey’s medical cannabis marketplace and give oversight for the soon-to-be-established adult-use recreational cannabis marketplace. Medicinal marijuana has been legal in the Garden State since 2010.

Gov. Murphy established the CRC in 2019 and started making appointments once the state voted to legalize recreational marijuana in November of 2020.

In a statement in February, Murphy said that the commission will “act to ensure that the marketplace for adult-use recreational cannabis is equitable, fair, and inclusive of all communities.”

Dianna Houenou was named commissioner back in November. Houenou, a Trenton resident, is a cannabis legalization advocate who also served as a senior policy adviser and associate counsel to Gov. Murphy. Prior to that, she worked as a policy council with the New Jersey chapter of the ACLU, where she “developed legislative strategies for ACLU-NJ advocacy campaigns and led the organization’s coalitions advocating for marijuana legalization and Newark police reform.”

Houenou was one of Gov. Murphy’s three direct appointments.

Jeff Brown was named executive director of the commission in November. A Mercer County native, Brown is the assistant commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health, overseeing the department’s medical marijuana division.

Prior to working for the state, Brown worked extensively on the passage and implementation of the Affordable Care Act, particularly the creation of health insurance exchanges and the expansion of Medicaid.

According to a spokesperson for Murphy, commissioners are responsible for governance. They will approve regulations and other key actions of the Commission, provide strategic direction, and be responsible for holding public meetings with stakeholders. The chair will lead those efforts.

The executive director is responsible for administration, operations and execution of that strategic direction and corresponding regulations. All staff report up to the executive director.

Krista Nash was named to the commission in November upon the recommendation of Speaker Coughlin. Nash is a long-time social justice advocate. She currently serves as Program Director of the PROMISE program at Volunteers of America Delaware Valley and previously served as a mentor at Oaks Integrate Care and Transitions for Youth. Additionally she serves on the Camden County Addiction Awareness Task Force.

Other members of the CRC are Maria Del Cid and William Wallace, as well as Sam Delgado.

Del Cid currently serves as the director of oolicy and legislative services at the New Jersey Department of Health, where she serves as a liaison with the governor’s office and to the legislature.

Wallace is the director of the professional division of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) International Union Local 342, where he also serves on the executive board. Wallace previously worked as a Pharmacist-In-Charge at several pharmacies across the state of New Jersey.

Delgado most recently served as vice president of external affairs for Verizon, a position from which he retired in 2019. Before retiring, Mr. Delgado was responsible for managing the allocation of grants, supporting Verizon’s philanthropic endeavors, and furthering Verizon’s environmental commitments.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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