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September 2023 Newsletter

Opportunity is knocking. Answer the door!

NYC Couple on rooftop with cannabis plant
CWCBExpo In Conversation with Leo Bridgewater

“The CWCBExpo is where my evolution from Veteran/Activist to Veteran/Activist/Entrepreneur began. For years the CWCBExpo has been at the forefront of facilitating very difficult conversations that seek to address the many equity challenges within the Cannabis Industry while also curating environments that lead to solutions. The CWCBExpo is no longer just a “must attend” experience for aspiring cannabis business owners, it’s evolved now into a public service the Cannabis Industry and Culture is blessed to have.”

– Leo Bridgewater, Co-Founder, Collective 60 New Jersey; Partner, Heart Community Capital

Leo Bridgewater
Leo Bridgewater

CWCBExpo sat down to talk with Leo Bridgewater, US Army Veteran, Entrepreneur, Activist, and CWCBExpo Advisory Board Member.

We discussed the cannabis programs in New Jersey that are geared to help veterans, entrepreneurs and neighborhood Impact Zones that have been affected and harmed by the war on drugs.
In 2001, Leo Bridgewater enlisted into the United States Army in response to the September 11 attacks. There, he spent five years as a Telecommunications specialist with multiple deployments to Iraq. After separating from the Army in 2006, he spent another 2 ½ years working for the Department of the Army at the Pentagon in Washington DC. Having had three battle buddies attempt suicide and two being successful, Leo’s advocacy for veterans’ rights has seen him testify in NJ Senate Committee to have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) added to the NJ Medical Marijuana Program (NJMMP). As a result of his efforts, in September of 2016, NJ Governor Chris Christie signed bill S-2345 adding PTSD to the NJMMP.
Leo has a long history of working with New Jersey legislators on moving the cannabis industry in their state forward. Leo explained that the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) and other departments in NJ have developed a program called the Technical Assistance Program (TAP).
We asked Leo about this program in NJ and how it helps veterans and other groups to get started in owning and operating cannabis businesses.

Q: CWCBExpo – What is New Jersey’s Technical Assistance Program (TAP)?

A: Leo – The TAP program is a coordinated initiative and program by the NJCRC, the NJ State Department Business Action Center (NJBAC) and the NJ Economic Development  Authority Department. It is run by NJBAC to provide no-cost technical assistance and training to cannabis license applicants.

TAP is a program that is geared to help applicants in certain categories such as social equity, legacy, diversely-owned and microbusinesses, and Impact Zones. Impact Zones are the hardest hit areas and neighborhoods in New Jersey that have been impacted by the failed war on drugs and have had the highest arrests for minor cannabis offenses.

NJBAC exhibited at the CWCBExpo this past June and they had numerous attendees and businesses looking to get into the NJ cannabis space. It was very beneficial for NJBAC to participate in CWCBExpo.

Q: What sort of assistance does TAP provide for participants who are in the program?

A: Leo – TAP provides business “101” and “102” classes to participants; it also awards financial grants from $150K up to $250K; it provides access to state approved vendors for every aspect of the supply chain, and gives mentoring to help participants be successful.

Q: Are you satisfied so far with how and what groups have been issued cannabis licenses from the NJCRC? 

A:  Leo – According to NJ law, 30% of all licenses must go to minorities, veterans, women, etc., and NJ has exceeded that statute requirement. Furthermore, there is no cap on  cannabis licenses in NJ. So as the rollout continues, the NJ cannabis industry will continue to issue licenses and support those applicants who get them.

In New Jersey, we have a very diligent and dedicated team of people including Dianna Houenou, the Commission Chair of the NJCRC, Jeff Brown, the Executive Director of the NJCRC, and Wesley McWhite III, the Director of Diversity and Inclusion at the NJCRC.

“We need a cannabis vote to be more organized on political grounds. We are asking a bunch of Flintstones to write a game-plan and playbook for a Jetsons game.”

Q: What would you like to see going forward for the cannabis industry on a national level, especially in the context of the recent Health and Human Service (HHS) recommendation to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) to reschedule cannabis from a Schedule 1 classification drug to a Schedule 3 classification drug.

A: Leo – I would like to see more active voters coming out to make sure we elect politicians that are supportive of cannabis and removing entirely cannabis from being illegal at all – just completely remove it – de-schedule it entirely.

C’mon, where do politicians go to ask about cannabis and get answers about the plant? We need a cannabis vote to be more organized on political grounds. We are asking a bunch of Flintstones to write a game-plan and playbook for a Jetsons game. The voters must demand that those we elect are knowledgeable and aware of the plant and making cannabis legal on a federal level.


Editor’s Note: Leo Bridgewater was a panelist on the session “Social Equity: Entrepreneurs, Change Makers and Heros” at the June 2023 CWCBExpo in New York. You can watch the session today as this month’s featured video.

New York State News

The New York State Office of Cannabis Management (NYSOCM) will be opening the licensing program and anticipates that they will be issuing 1,500 licenses during the application process which starts October 4.

Note that there are five license types that the NYSOCM will be issuing. Make sure you understand the process.

The five types are:

  • Adult-Use Cultivator
  • Adult-Use Processor
  • Adult-Use Distributor
  • Adult-Use Retail Dispensary
  • Microbusiness
NYS OCM Office of Cannabis Management

So what does this mean exactly?

Read more here from their website and get your application in if you want to apply for a license. Click here to learn more.

New Jersey News

On September 27, the NJCRC opened the application process for more cannabis licenses in certain classes for recreational businesses. They are:


  • Class 3: Wholesaler
  • Class 4 Distributor
  • Class 5: Delivery Service
NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission
Maryland News

Here’s some more good news for the East Coast Cannabis markets: The state of Maryland has logged mega millions each month since their adult-use sales started in July. There were no adult-use sales prior to July in Maryland – only medical, and sales were half as much as reported in June compared to July once adult-use sales began. June sales prior to adult-use were just over $42MM. In July they were over $87MM, and in August they were over $91MM. It looks like a steady increase as the adult-use Maryland market develops.

Alaska News

Free samples? Looser ads? Drive-up sales? What is happening in Alaska?

Alaska went adult-use in 2014 but had some stringent rules regarding advertising and taxation. Almost ten years later, Alaska has made some changes which will help support its cannabis industry. The changes reflect easing of rules on a taxation level, the advertising of cannabis, and provide less strict rules and regulations than that of Anchorage.

The state legislators signed changes on September 8, and starting on October 8, the new rules that will go into effect will allow less stringent advertising methods, allow for the issuing of coupons for cannabis products, and allow the give-way of free samples. Alaska could start seeing ads on buses and other public places where ads were previously banned.

ADN, Anchorage Daily News
Federal News: SAFER Banking Act

Earlier this week, as we close out September, the SAFER Banking Act passed under the Senate Banking Committee with an approval vote of 14-9. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would bring the SAFER Banking Act to a vote on the Senate floor but with the impending government shut down, there is no telling when the full Senate vote would take place.


In mid-August, the Green Party introduced a cannabis legalization bill to their Federal Parliament with the goal to create a legal cannabis industry across all of Australia. The anticipation is that it would create opportunity for its citizens, bring revenue in the billions to Australia, and codify the fact that Australians widely support legalization of cannabis.


Israel has eased the medical cannabis rules and laws for patients. Effective in December, patients will be able to get medical cannabis as their first line of treatment for illnesses rather than go through a cycle of traditional treatments first. They will also have access to hemp-derived CBD products.


Social Equity: Entrepreneurs, Change Makers and Heroes

At our CWCBExpo conference this past June 2023, we were honored to have Leo Bridgewater as a panelist speaking in the seminar “Social Equity: Entrepreneurs, Change Makers and Heroes.”  You can watch the video of this session today.

Moderated by Thunder Walker, Principal, The Thunder Walker Experience, it also included Sarah Stenuf, Founder, CEO, Ananda Farms, Founder, Director, Veteran’s Ananda Inc; Nicole Buffong, National Community Program Director, Minorities for Medical Marijuana; Leo Bridgewater, Partner, Heart Community Capital, Partner, Collective 360 New Jersey; Solonje Burnett, Co-founder, Chief Culture & Community Officer, erven.

Listen to this truthful, candid, energetic, enlightening and from the heart discussion by all of the panelists.

Social Equity Session June 1 2023

“Social Equity: Entrepreneurs, Change Makers and Heroes,” June 1, 2023.
Pictured from the left: Solonje Burnett, Leo Bridgewater, Sarah Stenuf, Nicole Buffong, and Thunder Walker.


Recent BLOG items include “Solventless Extracts by the Numbers,” national and regional news updates, and in depth CAURD info.

An open container of cannabis concentrates sits on a dark wood table. Bits of cannabis flower surround the concentrate. A glass piece is seen in the background.
Continuing to build the industry together!

June 5 – 6, 2024
Javits Convention Center, NYC

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