Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles As cannabis legalization spreads throughout the US states are looking at different ways to ensure those most affected by decades of racially biased anti drug policies have a leg up under a special program New Jersey prioritizes granting licenses to dispensaries run by people with marijuana convictions on their records. Now, lawmakers hope that by making equity a cornerstone of their newly legalized markets, those who don't marijuana in the illegal or legacy market will be persuaded to go legit. I'm here in Trenton, which is at the forefront of New Jersey's legalization efforts. And I'm talking to people who are some of the first in the state to get dispensary licenses based on past marijuana related offenses. And there's won't be a door right? entrance here people walking through here. It's a waiting room. Yep. So the eggs the door where people come in is actually going to be right over here. Yep. So the door where people come in is going to be over here. So imagine people are going to so when you come in the door like you see the receptionist you check in, check your ID. And then inside the actual retail sales floor, we're gonna have a number of different accessories. Like I said, bombs, papers merchandise. This is to hear Johnson he's a 39 year old native of union New Jersey, who's one of the first people with a marijuana related criminal conviction to own and operate a Legal dispensary in New Jersey. He's in the process of renovating an old electrical warehouse into a dispensary called simply pure Trenton. You know, actually thinking about every time I even think about the reality of what I'm actually doing, it gets kind of overwhelming. It's like I put in a lot of work, quit my job, I did all this stuff to try to do it. But it's like the whole time. It's like you're just going through the motions. And you don't know where you're actually going to end up. And I've been on this journey for like five years now. So it's crazy man. What is going to be here? What is this going to look like? What's its purpose? This part right here was always traditionally a retail store. There was the Metro PCS before and my grandmother's nail shop, this wall is actually coming down. So this is going to be one big wide open floor space. Getting licensed is a high stakes affair. In the third quarter of 2022. Alone, legal marijuana sales brought in $177 million across New Jersey, the vast majority of it coming from recreational marijuana. Half of our city is below the poverty line have a high unemployment rate. And we have a lot of like urban America across the United States have problems with gangs and in crime. This is a great way that we could turn a lot of young entrepreneurs into a positive economic advantage and utilizing their experience in in in being defeated the drug war to be Victors and being able to get real economic advantage. Johnson is one of many applicants who are prioritized because of his past criminal marijuana related offenses. He said he's been pulled over and arrested several times for small amounts of cannabis. Now cannabis is becoming his career has always been that response and if you really want to give back and try to help lift people that came from similar situations and make a difference and that's really what I've been working at doing for years but to nail actually be the example of what I've been preaching about to try to tell people like you know, always talking about, we need to have more ownership in his business more opportunities, but unable to actually be able to get one myself and be able to show what that achievement looks like. You know, it's amazing. The black market for marijuana in New Jersey remains alive and well. Despite statewide, the criminalization and the legalization of recreational cannabis. This is at Fortune, a local celebrity who goes by the nickname NJ weed man, his dispensary in downtown Trenton does not currently have a license and operates in a legal gray zone. Thanks to years of court battles, both criminal and civil. It also sits right across from Trenton City Hall. Yeah, so tell me about your story. What has led you here? I've been selling weed pretty much my whole adult life. But as this whole legalization movement spread across the country, right, I felt like the black market is a real legitimate market the marijuana market. So where are you in the process of becoming illegal? I got the conditional license we've applied for the annual license no word yet. And it might because the obviously no I'm not complying with the conditions. I'm not totally matched to the state. The way it's doing the CRC board itself is trying I like what they're trying to do. I think we're going in the right direction. Yes, I do. I think there's more public opinion and guys like me, forcing these issues out there. You know, like, what are you gonna do with the black market? We're gonna do with the legacy market. What are you gonna do with these guys? Throw race Don't wait like they have to deal with us now like they could come around bust us off to that would be a political nightmare for that. So that's Trenton used to be home of Roebling factories that made the steel cables for the Brooklyn Bridge. We made Lenox China here, White House, China, we make toilets, car parts, and all of that industry has dried up and this is the emerging new market that will will be here for years to come.