Joshua S. Bauchner


Jennifer Krimko Secures Variance for New Tesla Gallery and Service Facility

Jennifer Krimko, a Shareholder and Co-Chair of the Firm’s Land Use and Zoning Department, recently represented the property owners for the upcoming Tesla automobile gallery and factory-authorized service facility in Eatontown. The project required approval by the Eatontown Zoning Board of Adjustment because car sales are not permitted in the borough’s zoning rules. In addition to the selling and servicing of electric vehicles, the store will provide a free-standing charging station open to the public along the Route 35 corridor.




Cannabis Law October Update

New Jersey Weekly Bar Report

On Monday, October 18, 2021, the New Jersey Law Journal’s weekly Bar Report spoke with NJSBA Cannabis Law Committee Co-Chairs Joshua S. Bauchner, Esq. (of Ansell Grimm & Aaron, PC) and Lisa Gora, Esq. (of Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, PA) about the legal landscape surrounding the new state law and what can be expected in the early days of this new industry. The Report includes a Q&A that touches on the new law’s impact on attorneys, opportunities for New Jersey entrepreneurs, municipal involvement, and current expected timelines. A copy of the report can be viewed here.


Cannabis Regulatory Commission Meeting

On Friday, October 15, 2021, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission held a meeting during which they voted on and issued recommendations for applicants for Cultivator and Vertically Integrated Licenses as part of the 2019 RFA round. The Commission did not take any action with regard to applicants for Dispensary Licenses. Initially, it was expected that five (5) Cultivator Licenses and four (4) Vertically Integrated Licenses would be awarded. At the meeting, the Commission announced that they would be recommending double the number of Cultivator Licenses. The Commission stipulated that these Cultivator Licensees will need to operate for one (1) year prior to being able to begin adult-use sales. A recording of the meeting will be available on the Commission’s website shortly.


New Jersey Law Journal

On Monday, October 18, 2021, the New Jersey Law Journal published HIGH-lights: A Look at Personal Use Cannabis Rules Adopted by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. The article, a collaboration between Zachary L. Windham, Esq., of Ansell Grimm & Aaron, PC and Lisa Gora, Esq., of Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, PA, focuses on the upcoming adult-use application process in light of the initial regulations released by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. The article discusses who will receive “prioritization” in the application process and the impact of receiving such priority, as well as surmising when and what to expect for application submission window(s) given the limited details on the topic within the Commission’s initial rules. A copy of the article can be found here.


2018 RFA Awards Still Outstanding

 Despite the Commission’s award of 14 new licenses to applicants from the 2019 RFA, the results of the 2018 RFA are still pending. It has been nearly three (3) years since several rejected applicants filed suit against the state due to lack of transparency and endemic errors in the scoring process implemented by the Department of Health. Last November, a three-judge appellate court vacated the initial 2018 awards and ordered the DOH to develop a new rating system for applications and to increase transparency. The responsibility for reevaluating these applications has been transferred to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. The Commission has stated that the 2018 RFA applications are still under review. Appellants recently wrote the CRC requesting information on resolving this three-year old matter, however there is no indication of when this review might be completed.


Cannabis Regulatory Commission Cannabis Informational Webinar

On Wednesday, October 13, 2021, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission held an informational webinar. During the webinar, the Commission briefly explained the equity and safety provisions in the initial rules as well as providing general guidance for municipalities. The Commission also discussed basic application requirements and what preliminary steps businesses can take to prepare for applying. The biggest news from the webinar was likely the Commission’s statement that Class 5 Retail License holders will be permitted to provide delivery services for their own products without holding a separate Class 6 Delivery Service License. A recording of the webinar can be viewed here.


NJSBA CLE:  Latest Developments In Cannabis Law

On Thursday, October, 28 2021 the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Cannabis Law Committee will be hosting a seminar to discuss The Latest Developments In Cannabis Law, including the Cannabis Regulatory Commission’s initial regulations for the industry. In addition to the personal use cannabis regulations, there will be a panel of township officials to discuss Municipalities and Town Councils, as well as a discussion of corporate and real estate transactions; whether that be the acquisition or disposition of a cannabis operation or the real estate considerations when acquiring real property for, and when leasing to or by, a cannabis operation.


Program Chairs are Joshua S. Bauchner, Esq. of Ansell Grimm & Aaron, PC, and Lisa Gora, Esq. of Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, PA. Speakers will include John Barree AICP, PP of Heyer, Gruel & Associates, Jack Fersko, Esq. of Greenbaum Rowe Smith & Davis, LLP, Mollie F. Hartman Lustig, Esq. of Cappuzzo, PC, Michael A. Hoffman, Esq. of The Hoffman Centers, PC, Mayor Ryan Martinez of Butler, Morris County, Ronald P. Mondello, Esq. of Law Offices of Ronald P. Mondello, Robert E. Schiappacasse, Esq. of Sills Cummis & Gross P.C, Mayor Domenick Stampone of Haledon, Passaic County, and Sarah Trent, Founder and CEO of Valley Wellness.


For more information and to register for the NJICLE Seminar – Latest Developments In Cannabis Law click here.


Ansell Grimm & Aaron Roundup July 2021

Mitchell Ansell Featured in Industry Magazine

NJ Criminal Defense AttorneyMitchell Ansell, Shareholder, and Chair of the Criminal Defense Department, recently was featured as a power player by Industry Magazine in their July/August 2021 issue. This inclusion provides an opportunity to more personally know a power player who prides himself on the lasting impact and positive influence he provides to clients.

Industry Magazine covers anything and everything of interest for influential tastemakers and trendsetters across New Jersey and New York, from fashion and entertainment to lifestyle and health, to travel and business. The article is available here.


NJSBA Submits Report & Recommendations to the NJCRC

The New Jersey State Bar Association’s Cannabis Law Committee provided the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (“CRC”) with a report and recommendations regarding the CRC’s implementation of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (“CREAMMA”). The report covers a broad range of topics, from macro-issues like marketplace and licensing regulations to more micro-issues related to expungements and CREAMMA’s impact on family law matters. Both Joshua Bauchner and Zachary Windham (pictured) of AGA’s Cannabis Law Practice Group, contributed to the report and recommendations. A copy of the report is available here.



Michael Benedetto Closes on Ocean Block Lot Sale

NJ Commercial Real Estate AttorneyMichael Benedetto, Managing Partner and President of the Firm, who also serves as the Chair of the Commercial Real Estate Department and the Corporate, Finance, & Banking Department, recently served as counsel to the Seller in an off-market sale of a parcel of property that sits approximately 300 feet from the Atlantic Ocean in Long Branch, New Jersey. The property was the last parcel for an ocean block assemblage of just over 1.8 acres. The purchaser of the property was PV Motel, LLC, an affiliate of Kushner Companies, who reportedly intends to construct an oceanfront hotel on the site along with three other lots which make up the assemblage.



Joshua Bauchner Featured in Commerce Magazine

NJ Bankruptcy AttorneyJoshua Bauchner, a shareholder who serves as both Co-Chair of the Litigation Department and head of the Cannabis Law Practice Group, was featured in the July 2021 issue of Commerce Magazine as part of the article Cannabis: A Growing Business Sector in the Garden State? Josh was one of several influential attorneys from across New Jersey asked to discuss what this budding industry means for entrepreneurs right now. Commerce Magazine is the flagship publication of the Commerce & Industry Association of New Jersey. The article is available here.x



Ashley Whitney Files PBA Appeal with NJ Supreme Court

Ashley Whitney of AGA’s Woodland Park office recently filed an appeal with the New Jersey Supreme Court, challenging an opinion from the Appellate Division which upheld the termination of a police officer with no prior discipline for alleged violations of the Criminal Justice Information System through his use of full-disclosure vehicle registration searches despite the police department’s failure to identify a single full-disclosure search conducted without justification.

The Appellate Division’s decision may have a lasting impact upon the law enforcement community as the performance of searches by police has not been significantly addressed by New Jersey Courts since the decision in State v. Donis, 157 N.J. 44 (1998).

The decision is especially pertinent to the issues facing police as it comes on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision in the matter of In re AG Law Enf’t Directive Nos. 2020-5 & 2020-6, 2021 N.J. LEXIS 486 (June 7, 2021), which upheld the New Jersey Attorney General’s Directives requiring the release of the names of police officers who receive major discipline.

Seth Rosenstein Appointed as FINRA Arbitrator

Seth Rosenstein of AGA’s Woodland Park and White Plains offices was recently appointed a FINRA Dispute Resolution Services Arbitrator. Having practiced in all aspects of securities class action litigation before state and federal courts throughout the United States, as well as representing Fortune 500 financial services companies in arbitration actions brought before FINRA arbitration panels, Mr. Rosenstein will now hear disputes subject to FINRA jurisdiction — which will supplement his unique perspective and experience representing aggrieved investors and financial services professionals. FINRA representation is one component to Mr. Rosenstein’s multi-disciplined practice, which continues to include commercial litigation, cannabis law, and disputes concerning real estate and home improvement contractors.


Roy Hibberd Counsels Insurance Company Acquisition

Roy Hibberd, corporate counsel in the firm’s Ocean office, recently provided legal counsel to McCue Captains Agency of Little Silver, NJ, in its acquisition by World Insurance Associates LLC. The acquisition was announced on July 1, 2021. As a Top 100 Insurance Brokerage, World Insurance Associates’ acquisition will provide McCue the opportunity to expand their national presence while continuing to provide personalized services in Property, Liability, Life and Benefits insurances for both businesses and individuals.



Jennifer Krimko Helps Hillel Win Expansion Approval

New Jersey Real Estate AttorneyJennifer S. Krimko, Esq., Co-Chair of the Firm’s Land Use and Zoning Department, recently secured approval for an expansion of the Hillel School campus in Ocean Township, as well as the construction of a new, state-of-the-art firehouse for the Township’s Fire District, at no cost to the taxpayers. The approval includes the construction of: a new, approximately 56,613 square-foot, three-story high school building; approximately 15,872 square foot addition to the school’s early learning center building; and approximately 6,725 square-foot, new fire station building. Additionally, construction of tennis courts, a basketball court, new parking, drainage structures, landscaping, and related site improvements were also approved.

You can view the video of the Board’s decision, including a digital rendering of the expanded facility here.



Cannabis CLEs

On July 22 Joshua Bauchner participated as an invited speaker for a webinar hosted by the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Cannabis Law Committee. The webinar, The Ins and Outs of Licensing of Recreational Cannabis Businesses in New Jersey, addressed the parameters set out by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (“CREAMMA”) and what those parameters mean for potential licensees.
The panel discussed the six classes of licensure, microbusinesses, impact zones, municipal land use, and anticipated regulations from the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (“CRC”).
Josh also moderated a CLE on August 5, 2021, as part of the NJ Society of CPA’s day-long Cannabis Conference. The panel will discuss “The Legal Lifecycle of a Cannabis Business.”

Ansell Grimm & Aaron is Hiring

Ansell Grimm & Aaron PC is seeking a Law Clerk to work in our Real Estate Department. For more information or to apply, please visit us on LinkedIn .


Cannabis Law Update

NJSBA Cannabis Law Committee Issues Report and Recommendations to NJ Cannabis Regulatory Committee

On Tuesday, July 13, 2021, the New Jersey State Bar Association Cannabis Law Committee provided the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Committee with a comprehensive Report detailing issues with the Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (“CREAMMA”), and proposing recommendations to resolve those concerns.  The Report was presented with the goal of clarifying apparent ambiguities, providing further transparency, and remedying apparent inconsistencies identified in CREAMMA.

In doing so, the Report identifies twelve (12) overarching topics on various issues of concern and provides a recommendation for each; including:  (i) lab testing, (ii) regulation of cannabis, (iii) marketplace regulations of recreational cannabis, (iv) marketplace regulation pertaining to hemp, (v) licensing, (vi) microbusiness and conditional licensing, (vii) municipal/land use, (viii) taxes, (ix) taxes, (x) impact zones, (xi) acute impairment considerations, (xii) expungement, and (xiii) family law considerations.

Ansell Grimm & Aaron attorneys Joshua S. Bauchner, co-chair of the Cannabis Law Committee, and Zachary L. Windham, a committee member, led the effort in conjunction with Lisa Gora, co-chair, and Sarah Trent, secretary.  The Report was informed by the contributions of numerous Committee members across multiple disciplines, as reflected in the appendix.

A copy of the Report is available here:
Report and Recommendations to
NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission


The Ins and Outs of Licensing of Recreational Cannabis Businesses in New Jersey

On Thursday, July 22, the New Jersey State Bar Association’s Cannabis Law Committee will be hosting a webinar to discuss what you need to know about licensing in the State’s new recreational cannabis industry. The webinar will address the industry parameters set out by New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (“CREAMMA”) and what those parameters mean for potential licensees. Topics will include the six classes of licenses, microbusinesses, impact zones, municipal land use, and anticipated regulations from the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (“CRC”). You will hear from Jordan Asch, Esq. of Asch Legal LLC, Joshua S. Bauchner, Esq. of Ansell Grimm & Aaron, PC, Lisa Gora, Esq. of Wilentz, Goldman & Spitzer, PA, Charles Latini of L&G Planning, LLC, and Sarah Trent, Esq. of Valley Wellness.

For more information and NJICLE Webcast- The Ins and Outs of Licensing of Recreational Cannabis Businesses in New Jersey click here.

Ansell Grimm & Aaron’s Cannabis Law Practice helps clients, at every stage of their cannabis business’ development, to navigate the complex legal landscape including production, sale, use, regulation and legalization.  Please contact Joshua S. Bauchner, Esq. ( or Zachary L. Windham, Esq. ( at (973) 247-9000 for additional information.



Client Alert: Municipalities’ Implementation Of CREAMMA
What You Need To Know


Q. When do we need to decide whether to opt in or out?
A. Municipalities have 180 days from the effective date (February 22, 2021) of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (CREAMMA) to opt-out of specific cannabis license Classes, or by August 21, 2021.

Q. What happens if we do not make a decision before the opt-out deadline?
A. If no action is taken, Class 5 license activity (cannabis retailers) will be a conditional use in all commercial zones or retail zones and Class 1, 2, 3, 4, and 6 license activities (cultivator, manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, & delivery respectively) will be permitted uses in all industrial zones.  In effect, taking no action equates to opting-in.

Q. Can we choose to opt-out of specific license Classes?
A. Yes. A municipality may prohibit the operation of any one or more license Classes. However, the license Class(es) you do permit will fall under the default zoning requirements without additional municipal action.

Q. Can we prohibit adult-use cannabis establishments if we already have an Alternative Treatment Center dispensary in our municipality.
A. Yes. However, a prohibition ordinance could impact the Alternative Treatment Center’s ability to participate in the adult-use cannabis market depending on the license Class(es) you prohibit in the ordinance.

Q. Can we limit the number of licenses of a particular Class?
A. Yes. Municipalities can restrict the number of available licenses for each Class of license permitted in the Municipality.

Q. What sort of distance requirements can we place on cannabis licenses?
A. You can require that cannabis licenses be minimum distances from places like schools, houses of worship, childcare facilities, substance rehabilitation facilities, etc. You can tailor the requirements by cannabis license class or location, requiring licensees maintain a certain distance. You can also require that cannabis licensees be a minimum distance from other cannabis licensees and specify by license class.

Q. Can we regulate the signage/store front of a cannabis licensee?
A. Yes. You can regulate a cannabis establishment’s signage as you would any other business in your municipality.

Q. Can we create a local licensing process for potential licensees?
A. Yes. Municipalities can impose their own local licensing requirements as part of the restrictions on the number of cannabis licenses.

Q. Can we make state licensure a requirement for municipal approval?
A. No. CREAMMA dictates that a municipality shall notify the Cannabis Regulatory Commission that it either approves or denies each application forwarded to it. Therefore, municipal approval is a prerequisite to receiving a state license from the Commission.

Ansell Grimm & Aaron Round Up: June 2021

AGA Secures Dismissal Of Nationwide Class Action 

Ansell Grimm & Aaron attorneys Joshua S. Bauchner and Anthony J. D’Artiglio obtained dismissal of a putative, nationwide class action for lack of subject matter jurisdiction in New Jersey federal district court.  The case, Cindy Adam v. Frank V. Barone, et al., Civ. A. No.: 3:20-cv-10321-MAS-LHG, concerned claims alleging that Defendants violated various California and Federal consumer protection statutes through their online sale of natural beauty products, including seeking to certify a nationwide class alleging violations of over 40 different States’ consumer protection statutes.  Following Ansell Grimm & Aaron successfully securing a transfer of the case from the Northern District of California to the District of New Jersey, Defendants filed a Motion to Dismiss arguing, among other things, that a pre-litigation offer of a full refund for the purchased products made in the ordinary course of business mooted plaintiff’s claims and divested the Court of subject matter jurisdiction.

The Court rejected plaintiff’s argument that the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Campbell-Ewald Co. v. Gomez, did not moot the claims because, in that case, the Supreme Court held that an unaccepted offer of judgment or an unaccepted settlement offer could not defeat subject matter jurisdiction.  Ansell Grimm & Aaron explained that Campbell-Ewald does not apply because a pre-litigation, ordinary course offer of a refund is not a “settlement offer” – a bright-line distinction between pre-litigation refunds and post-litigation settlements.   The Court agreed explaining that it was declining “to extend Campbell-Ewald as Plaintiff suggests, where a refund was offered in the ordinary course of business by a representative of the company during a phone call with a customer.”  As a result, the offer of a refund mooted Plaintiff’s claims such that there was no “case or controversy” permitting Article III subject matter jurisdiction for the Court.  By securing dismissal at the pleading stage, Ansell Grimm & Aaron saved its clients substantial time and expense which otherwise would have been wasted defending a meritless, nationwide class action.

Ansell, Grimm & Aaron attorneys regularly engage in class action defense arising from frivolous claims and seek to obtain a similarly quick and cost-effective result for our clients. Of course, some matters do have merit, in which case our attorneys work to narrow the claims or class towards minimizing damages and obtaining a favorable settlement.

For additional information on Ansell Grimm & Aaron’s class action practice, please contact Joshua S. Bauchner, Esq. ( or Anthony D’Artiglio, Esq. ( at (973) 247-9000.

AGA Attorney Testifies Before State Cannabis Regulatory Commission

Ansell Grimm & Aaron attorney Zachary L. Windham testified before the Cannabis Regulatory Commission on June 1, 2021.  His testimony concerned whether limitations should be imposed on the potency of concentrates and edibles that will be sold in New Jersey marijuana dispensaries.  Zachary explained:  “The path of least resistance from a consumer standpoint would be to purchase all of their cannabis products from the unregulated supplier, who could provide them with a wider variety of product types.”  Accordingly, Zachary recommended against restrictions favoring effective labeling and consumer education.  Media coverage concerning his testimony is available here.

Our dedicated Cannabis Law Practice Group stands ready to assist applicants with ensuring they are prepared when the Request for Applications is issued for adult use cannabis, as well as for additional medical licenses.  Please contact Joshua S. Bauchner, Esq. ( or Zachary L. Windham, Esq. ( at (973) 247-9000 to get started today.

George A. McGowan III Joins AGA As Corporate Attorney

George A. McGowan, III, joined as counsel with the firm. His practice is concentrated in areas of corporate and commercial law (both public and private companies), technology, and transactional matters including Mergers and Acquisitions, Trusts and Estates, Financing and Real Estate. His client roster includes a major data center, a streaming media company, several international manufacturing companies, professional practices, and closely held businesses. Mr. McGowan brings our clients both his private practice expertise with Fortune 500 Company knowledge and experience.

He is a graduate of Manhattan College with a Bachelor’s of Science in two majors, Finance and Marketing. He graduated from Seton Hall University School of Law with a J.D.  He clerked for the Honorable Patrick McGann, in the Chancery-General Equity Court in Monmouth County. He is admitted to practice in the State of New Jersey and its Federal Courts.

Nicholas J. Falcone Joins AGA As Counsel In The Land Use Department

Nicholas J. Falcone is counsel to the firm with the concentration of his practice relating to zoning and land use, and the representation of clients in all phases of governmental approvals for site plans, subdivisions and variances before municipal planning and zoning boards, as well as appeals therefrom. Before joining the firm Mr. Falcone represented planning boards and school districts in Monmouth County, as well as business statewide. Earlier, Mr. Falcone worked at the national law firms Fox Rothschild and the labor and employment boutique Grotta, Glassman and Hoffman, where his practice focused on labor and employment law, representing employers in state and federal courts in all aspects of civil litigation, administrative hearings, and provided HR counseling.

After law school graduation, Mr. Falcone was law clerk to the Honorable Martin L. Greenberg, Superior Court, Chancery Division: General Equity and Probate, and to Honorable Seymour Margulies and Honorable Fred J. Theemling, Jr., Superior Court, Civil Division, Hudson County, New Jersey. While in law school, Mr. Falcone worked as a law clerk at the firm of former U.S. District Court Judge Herbert J. Stern.

Mr. Falcone has had life long association with the arts. Prior to becoming an attorney, Mr. Falcone worked in the Broadway theater, including for the legendary director/producer Harold Prince, film and opera communities. Mr. Falcone served on Board of Directors of the Garden State Film Festival, 2009-2019, including as Chairman of the Board and Chairman and of the Programming Committee for the last six of those years.

Lunch & Learn:  Social Equity in New Jersey and New York Cannabis Programs Video and Presentation

NJCBA VP Marianne Bays, Ph.D., hosted a special guest panel last week which discussed Social Equity in NJ & NY Cannabis Programs. They shared the attached presentation slides with their contact information and additional handouts on the topic.

Josh Bauchner, Partner/Head of Cannabis Law Practice, Ansell Grimm & Aaron, PC
Zachary Windham, Associate/Cannabis Law Practice, Ansell Grimm & Aaron, PC
Lisa Reid, Managing Director, Government Relations, Mercury LLC

The presentation was sponsored by Ansell Grimm & Aaron, PC; Inglesino, Webster, Wyciskala & Taylor; Burton Trent Public Affairs; and NJ Buzz Productions.

Below is a recording of the May 7th, 2021 Lunch & Learn Session along with the aforementioned presentation slides and handouts.

Cannabis Law Update

Adult-Use Licensing

Attention again turns toward applications and licensing as a result of the passage of adult-use legislation in February, the Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (“CREAMMA”). The firm is working with a number of clients interested in pursuing one of six license types:  cultivation, processing, wholesaling, distribution, delivery and dispensary.

In addition to standard licenses, the newly formed Cannabis Regulatory Commission (“CRC”) is also offering micro-licenses targeting New Jersey entrepreneurs. Microbusiness licenses will be restricted to residents who have lived in the State for at least two years and will limit the size and number of employees of the Microbusiness. However, there will be no limit on the number of Microbusiness licenses that can be issued. CREAMMA requires that a minimum of 10% of the licenses issued for each license type be issued to Microbusinesses, and that 25% of the total licenses issued be awarded to Microbusinesses. The Microbusiness classification is expected to expand the opportunity for New Jersey residents to participate in the industry by removing the need for such applicants to compete for a finite number of licenses.

Medical Marijuana Licensing

The pending applications for the 2018 and 2019 medical marijuana licenses were formally transferred from the Department of Health (“DOH”) to the CRC.  As a result of a decision from the Appellate Division reversing and remanding the DOH’s 2018 scoring decisions, a number of appellants were permitted to resubmit their applications for additional review.  That process remains underway and likely will take another 90-120 days, at least.  Similarly, after the Appellate Division ruled on the 2019 appeal, the CRC is now scoring those applications and decisions are expected shortly.  As demand continues to vastly exceed supply, and it can take a year or longer to start operations, we are hopeful that the CRC will act quickly in awarding the six vertically integrated licenses available under the 2018 RFA and the 34 licenses of various types available under the 2019 RFA.

Cannabis Regulatory Commission

The CRC got off to a quick start hosting a number of virtual meetings to introduce the six commissioners –Dianna Houenou – Chair of the CRC, and Commissioners Krista Nash, Maria Del Cid-Kosso, Sam Delgado, and Charles Barker — and to establish an agenda for the significant amount of work which lies ahead.  Jeff Brown, who led the medical marijuana program under the DOH, came over as Executive Director of the CRC.

In support of that effort, Zachary Windham, who previously worked as the Legal & Financial Director for a Marijuana Business Operator with retail locations across the state of Colorado and recently joined the firm, submitted comments to the CRC concerning social equity issues, Minority and Women Business Enterprise (“MWBE”) point allocations, and the need to increase cultivation capacity in accord with the findings of the New Jersey Department of Health’s Biennial Report on the Medical Marijuana Industry, among other topics.

Zachary explained that there was a need to educate social equity applicants concerning the licensing process as the current  30 day window between issuance of the final rules and the application deadline was insufficient time to prepare a comprehensive application. He also recommended utilizing the State’s current MWBE designation as mechanism to allot additional points to social equity applicants, in the event there is insufficient opportunity for the CRC to create its own social equity designation.  Finally, Zachary explained that the Biennial Report noted the need to increase cultivation capacity, and that 10% of the 37 cultivation licenses (i.e., four licenses) would be awarded to micro-businesses.  However, as the micro-licenses are capped at 2,500 square foot canopy, it would only add 10,000 square feet of cultivation capacity.  While a robust microbusiness sector is critical to ensuring social equity at the consumer level, we also need to increase supple to meet the demand of more than 106,000 registered patients in addition to the adult-use market.

NJSBA Annual Meeting and Chair Appointment

Joshua Bauchner will be presenting at the NJ State Bar Association’s Annual Meeting on Thursday, May 20, 2021.  The virtual panel will provide an overview of CREAMMA addressing topics such as licensing, employment law, expungement and social justice issues, banking and business issues and more.  Registration remains open here.

Josh also was appointed Chair of the NJSBA Cannabis Law Committee for the 2021-2022 term, along with his friend  and colleague, Lisa Gora, Esq. of Wilentz Goldman & Spitzer, PA.

Bauchner Quoted: What NJ Attorneys Are Saying About
Attorney General’s Cannabis Sentencing Directive
by Nick Muscavage

Law360 (April 23, 2021, 3:16 PM EDT) — The New Jersey Attorney General recently issued a directive instructing prosecutors across the state to waive mandatory minimum sentences for certain nonviolent drug offenses, advancing a key part of the governor’s criminal justice reform plan that has been “delayed and denied” for nearly two years, according to the governor.

State Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced the directive on Monday that instructs prosecutors to waive mandatory parole disqualifiers — also known as mandatory minimum prison terms — for nonviolent drug offenses.

Directive 2021-4 will affect both current and past cases, according to Grewal.

For future cases, the initiative directs prosecutors to waive the mandatory minimum parole ineligibility terms associated with certain nonviolent drug offenses under New Jersey law. It also allows inmates who are currently in prison because of a mandatory minimum term for a nonviolent drug offense to request the waiver, requiring prosecutors to file a joint application to rescind the mandatory period of parole ineligibility so the modified sentence will be as if no mandatory minimum had been imposed.

According to Grewal, the directive “essentially takes the imposition of mandatory minimum terms ‘off the table’ for all current and future nonviolent drug defendants,” and also advances a 2019 recommendation from Gov. Phil Murphy’s Criminal Sentencing and Disposition Commission, which called for the elimination of all mandatory minimum terms for nonviolent drug crimes.

“It’s been nearly two years since I first joined with all 21 of our state’s county prosecutors to call for an end to mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug crimes. It’s been more than a year since the governor’s bipartisan commission made the same recommendation,” Grewal said in a statement. “And yet New Jerseyans still remain behind bars for unnecessarily long drug sentences. This outdated policy is hurting our residents, and it’s disproportionately affecting our young men of color. We can wait no longer. It’s time to act.”

Murphy’s sentencing commission also led to legislation that would have implemented its sentencing recommendations, but the bill has remained stalled in committee in both houses of the Legislature.

Grewal’s directive requires prosecutors to waive the mandatory period of parole ineligibility for the following charges: leader of narcotics trafficking network; maintaining or operating a facility producing a controlled dangerous substance, or CDS; manufacturing, distributing, or dispensing CDS; employing a juvenile in a drug distribution scheme; distributing, dispensing, or possessing with intent to distribute CDS within 1,000 feet of a school; distribution of CDS to persons under age 18.

However, it still allows prosecutors to seek periods of additional parole ineligibility in nonviolent drug cases “when warranted to protect public safety based on the specific facts of the case,” according to Grewal.

To learn more about the attorney general’s latest criminal justice reform effort, Law360 Pulse spoke to attorneys and experts to hear what they think of the initiative and how it will play out in the Garden State.











Jennifer Sellitti
Director of training and communications for the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender

“We are pleased that the attorney general stepped in to provide the relief for nonviolent drug offenders that the sentencing commission unanimously agreed was critical to ending racial disparities in our prisons. It is no secret that drug sentences disproportionately impact Black and brown people in the state of New Jersey — so much so that New Jersey has the highest racial disparity in the nation when it comes to prison sentences. This measure goes a long way in eliminating those disparities.”

Murphy’s sentencing commission noted that Black residents count for 14% of New Jersey’s population, but account for 61% of its inmate population, and many are serving sentences for nonviolent drug offenses, Grewal’s directive noted.

Sellitti said the key to ending mass incarceration is recognizing who needs to be in prison in the first place.

“Overincarcerating people leads to all sorts of barriers like hiring discrimination, lost job and career opportunities, homelessness and weakening of familial ties. We hope this is a small step in ensuring that prison cells are reserved for only those who truly need to be behind bars and marks a return to a more holistic approach to punishment.”

Sellitti also said the attorney general’s directive is “far more complicated than legislation and will result in it taking much longer to modify sentences.”

“Had the legislation passed, all of the judgments of convictions would have been changed administratively by the New Jersey Department of Corrections. Because our law has not changed and still requires mandatory minimums for certain charges, each person serving a mandatory minimum will have to be brought to court, vacate their original guilty plea, have their sentence modified and then reenter their plea. This will be quite a time-consuming process, especially during the midst of a pandemic.”

“The other issue is that the guidelines give prosecutors discretion to ask for discretionary minimums. It also only applies to a small category of offenses — far less than the legislation. This means that the discretion remains with the prosecutor and does not return to judges. Giving power back to judges was the whole purpose of the legislation.”

Regardless, the attorney general’s directive is still a step in the right direction, she said.

“Real change comes when we move away from a system based on punishment and return to a system based on rehabilitation.”











Sarah Fajardo
Policy director for the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey

“The attorney general’s directive moves New Jersey’s sentencing away from the use of policies that have exploded mass incarceration rates, and driven New Jersey’s racial disparity rates in prison to the highest levels seen in the nation. By directing prosecutors to stop seeking minimum sentences for specific charges, discretion in sentencing is restored to the courts, and helps prevent prosecutorial pressure behind the scenes to accept hefty sentences. This will benefit thousands of people — more than 1,000 people will become immediately eligible for resentencing under this directive.”

Fajardo said research has shown that onerous, lengthy sentences do not support rehabilitation and, when people exit the prison system, they are in no better position than when they went in.

“Additionally, mandatory minimum sentences for nonviolent drug offenses have been a core tool in the U.S.’s unsuccessful war on drugs. As New Jersey moves away from criminalization of cannabis and has regraded psilocybin possession, other components of our criminal legal system also need to adjust. Reforms in sentencing are a critical component of reducing New Jersey’s reliance on the criminal legal system and the expansion of mass incarceration.”

“A majority of New Jerseyans voted to legalize cannabis on the November 2020 ballot, and national polling shows overwhelming support for moving away from criminalizing people for engaging with cannabis. Simultaneously there is a growing movement towards a public health-focused, harm-reduction approach to drug use. By shifting away from use of onerous, harmful sentencing practices for this category of offenses, New Jersey takes a first step towards aligning our sentencing policies with other policy progress that the Garden State has made. ACLU-NJ supports the elimination of all mandatory minimum sentences and hopes that this change and additional changes will be codified in statute.”











Joshua Bauchner
Partner at Ansell Grimm & Aaron PC and chair of the firm’s cannabis law practice group

“It is a welcome and long overdue change. For far too long, minorities have been prosecuted, if not persecuted, for low level, victimless cannabis offenses at a hugely disproportionate rate.”

He believes that cannabis criminalization led to a racist criminal justice system, and Grewal’s directive comes at a time when the nation is grappling with biased policing practices.

“The country is finally confronting systemic racism, as the recent verdict in Minneapolis confirms. This is one more step forward toward addressing this problem, although much more needs to be done. In addition to the taint of being labeled a felon, incarcerating people among violent offenders creates grave physical and mental risks. Often, upon release, they are challenged in being able to rejoin society as a result of this harm and stigma. A purportedly ‘rehabilitative’ system fails entirely when it never actually permits people to rejoin society free from the consequences of their incarceration.”

Grewal’s directive, he said, will begin the process of a much-needed correction of the criminal justice system in New Jersey.

“The impact will be a significant reduction in the prison population and, more importantly perhaps, the removal of the blight of ‘felon status’ for these nonviolent offenders, which forever impacts on their ability to secure housing, employment, and even vote in certain jurisdictions.”