Tahir Johnson said he’s on track to be one of the first people with a marijuana related conviction to open a licensed dispensary in New Jersey. “The generational wealth this will create for my family is surreal,” he said.
Stefan Sykes for CNBC
TRENTON, N.J. — Tahir Johnson has been arrested on marijuana possession charges three times. Now, for the first time in his life, his conviction on one of those charges won’t hurt his employment prospects. It will help.
Johnson, 39, will be one of the first people with a marijuana-related conviction to own and operate a legal dispensary in New Jersey when he opens Simply Pure Trenton in March in his hometown of Ewing, which borders the state’s capital city. He was among about a dozen in the state to win a conditional license in 2022 because of his status as a “social equity applicant.”
“I checked all the boxes,” Johnson said of his qualifications for the application. “And I was especially confident because of my previous arrests.”
New Jersey is prioritizing granting licenses to dispensaries run by minorities, women and disabled veterans; dispensaries located in “impact zones,” or communities disproportionately affected by policing and marijuana arrests; and dispensaries run by people with prior marijuana convictions. It’s part of a concerted effort to redress decades of racially biased anti-drug policies.
Johnson fit into all three priority categories. Since he won his conditional license, he raised capital, purchased a property and secured approval from municipal authorities.
Tahir Johnson stands in front of what will soon be “Simply Pure Trenton”. The mixed use property is over 6,000 square feet and sits along a high traffic roadway.
Stefan Sykes for CNBC
A conditional license is a provisional license that allows awardees to begin operating while they fulfill requirements for an annual license. The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, or CRC, issued the first 11 of them in May. Since then, about one-quarter of all licenses have gone to social equity applicants, and 16% went specifically to applicants with prior marijuana convictions, according to a recent report from the agency.
“It’s a full circle moment,” said Johnson, whose past is riddled with run-ins with police, overnight stays in jail, and court battles over small amounts of marijuana recovered during traffic stops. These days, Johnson spends his time hiring staff, meeting with contractors and preparing merchandise. He expects the business will be profitable.
Tahir Johnson interviews a prospective employee ahead of his dispensary’s opening next month. His goal is to 45 employees for part time and full time roles.
Stefan Sykes for CNBC
“The generational wealth this will create for my family is surreal,” he said.
In the third quarter of 2022, there was $177 million in marijuana sales across the state, including $116 million in recreational sales alone, according to data from the Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
Lawmakers say efforts that prioritize entrepreneurs such as Johnson are a part of a broader reckoning to right the wrongs of the past and give those most affected by marijuana prohibition a leg up against corporate competitors. Similar initiatives are underway in other states, including New York, which has reserved the first 150 licenses solely for people with marijuana-related offenses or their relatives.
“There are plenty of people that went to jail or prison for marijuana that have more experience than a lot of these corporate entities,” said Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora. “We wanted to make sure they were able to get into the doorway themselves and be just as successful as a company coming in here from Colorado.”
Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora stands on the balcony of his office in City Hall. It faces a busy commercial strip including storefront “NJWeedman’s Joint & Dispensary.”
Stefan Sykes for CNBC
Gusciora, who helped introduce legislation for recreational use, said he’s thrilled at the influx of marijuana businesses trying to open in Trenton. He hopes the city can be a model for what a healthy, equitable legal market looks like. But before that can happen, those most affected by the war on drugs need to be included, Gusciora said.
“The whole purpose of legalization was to put drug dealers out of business,” said the mayor. “And now unless you allow them to get in legitimately, that defeats the whole purpose of legalization.”
John Dockery has been dealing marijuana since he was a teenager in the 1990s. His first charge at 19 for simple possession significantly limited his job prospects and kept him dealing, he said.
John Dockery said he’s “so used to stuff feeling like it’s not programmed for us” and was surprised to have been awarded a license last year.
Stefan Sykes for CNBC
“From the beginning of my adulthood, I had to disclose my charge every time I went for a job, and it stopped me from progressing in life,” said the Trenton native, who last year was among the first to receive a conditional license.
At first, Dockery was suspicious of New Jersey’s legalization efforts. He had racked up six charges over the years but said this was the “norm” for Trenton.
“I don’t know many people without at least one marijuana charge,” Dockery said. “Whether it’s a misdemeanor or a felony, everyone here has at least one.”
John Dockery rolls a joint. He’s sold marijuana since he was a teenager in the 1990s.
Stefan Sykes for CNBC
African Americans represent nearly half of Trenton’s population. In recent years, the state said it was an “Impact Zone,” or an area where marijuana criminalization contributed to higher concentrations of law enforcement activity, unemployment and poverty. In Mercer County, where Trenton is located, African Americans were more than four times as likely as white residents to be charged with possessing the drug, despite similar rates of usage.
Dockery said even though he was exactly the kind of applicant the state promised to give priority to while issuing licenses, he was “so used to stuff feeling like it’s not programmed for us” that the award came as a surprise.
From ‘legacy’ to legal
New Jersey lawmakers are hopeful that people such as Dockery, who dealt marijuana in the existing illegal or “legacy” market, will want to join the burgeoning legal market and apply as social equity applicants.
For longtime dealer Ed Forchion, the decision to go legit concludes a decadeslong saga of arrests, raids, court battles and stints in prison. Forchion, 58, has sold marijuana most of his life and gained fame in New Jersey as a staunch advocate for legalization, running for political office in the state through his Legalize Marijuana Party.
Ed Forchion, who also goes by “NJ Weedman,” stands outside of Trenton City Hall. Marijuana is decriminalized in New Jersey, and individuals like Forchion have largely had their offenses reversed in recent years.
Stefan Sykes for CNBC
Forchion, who also goes by the moniker “NJ Weedman,” began selling weed openly at his Trenton storefront in 2016. His dispensary, NJ Weedman’s Joint, sits opposite Trenton’s City Hall.
“Who wants the threat of arrest all the time?” he said. “While I was willing to fight, while I was willing to battle, I’d much rather pay taxes and be legal, and be considered an ingenious, smart, intelligent businessman, rather than a conniving, manipulative drug dealer.”
Marijuana is decriminalized in the state, and people such as Forchion have largely had their offenses reversed in recent years.
While he’s ready to join the legal market, Forchion sees some shortcomings to the framework proposed by the cannabis commission, such as its ban on dispensaries selling food or drinks of any kind.
Ed Forchion smokes marijuana in his dispensary located across the street from Trenton City Hall. His decision to go legit concludes a decades-long saga of arrests, raids, court battles and stints in prison.
Stefan Sykes for CNBC
“I don’t see how I can comply,” said Forchion, whose dispensary doubles as a restaurant.
Nevertheless, he applauds the agency’s efforts at paving a way for people like him. He’s also moving toward legitimacy — albeit at his own pace.
“The black market was here first, so the state’s going to have to catch up to me and people like me,” he said. “But my goal in the end is to hand a thriving, legal business to my kids.”
From Cartel to Evangelist: The Inspiring Journey of Juan Reyes, Puerto Rico’s Entrepreneur and Author
In the realm of entrepreneurship, few stories are as captivating and inspiring as that of Juan Reyes, a self-made entrepreneur and author hailing from Juncos, Puerto Rico. Despite being born into a low-income family, Reyes defied the odds and carved his path to success through sheer determination, hard work, and an unwavering commitment to his goals. From establishing thriving businesses to becoming a renowned author, Reyes’s journey exemplifies the transformative power of entrepreneurship and the indomitable spirit of an individual driven by faith and dedication.
A Journey Born out of Necessity
Growing up in Juncos, Puerto Rico, Juan Reyes faced significant challenges stemming from his family’s financial limitations. To support himself and contribute to his family’s well-being, Reyes began working from a young age. However, he never allowed his circumstances to dampen his dreams or extinguish his ambition. Determined to change his destiny, Reyes embarked on a path that would not only uplift his own life but also inspire countless others.
A Multifaceted Entrepreneur
Reyes’s entrepreneurial acumen led him to establish several successful ventures that have made a profound impact. Among his notable accomplishments are King of Credit Repair LLC, KCL Clothing Inc, and Shalom Renovation LLC. These enterprises not only generated substantial revenue but also provided employment opportunities for others. Reyes’s astute understanding of business markets, coupled with his expertise in real estate, notary services, modeling, and preaching, contributed to his ability to transform businesses from scratch into multi-million dollar ventures.
Authorship and Beyond
In addition to his entrepreneurial pursuits, Juan Reyes is also a respected author. His debut book, “From the Cartel to the Evangelist,” has garnered significant attention and acclaim. This captivating literary work chronicles Reyes’s personal journey, from overcoming adversity to finding redemption and purpose through his faith. The book serves as a testament to Reyes’s resilience and unwavering determination, inspiring readers to believe in their own potential and navigate their own paths to success.
Sponsored by Christian Faith Publishing
Reyes’s literary endeavors have received a significant boost through the sponsorship of Christian Faith Publishing. This collaboration has allowed Reyes to reach a wider audience with his powerful message of transformation, faith, and the pursuit of entrepreneurship. The partnership between Reyes and Christian Faith Publishing (visit the website here) has opened doors for him to inspire and motivate aspiring entrepreneurs and individuals seeking personal growth.
Recognizing the significance of his own journey, Juan Reyes has made it his mission to give back to society and uplift others. Through speaking engagements and mentoring programs, Reyes shares his knowledge, unique ideas, and experiences with business leaders and young individuals alike. His teachings have become a beacon of hope for those who have faced similar challenges and made similar mistakes, demonstrating that even a fallen business can rise to great heights.
The Pride of Juncos, Puerto Rico
Juan Reyes remains deeply connected to his roots in Juncos, Puerto Rico. His success story has not only become a source of pride for the local community but also an inspiration for the youth in the neighborhood. Reyes’s achievements serve as a testament to the transformative power of entrepreneurship, instilling hope and motivating aspiring entrepreneurs to strive for greatness despite their circumstances.
Juan Reyes’s journey from a humble upbringing in Juncos, Puerto Rico, to becoming a renowned entrepreneur and author is a testament to the triumph of resilience, determination, and faith. Through his businesses, writing, and mentorship, Reyes exemplifies the boundless potential that lies within every individual. He reminds us that with unwavering dedication and a strong belief in oneself, anyone can rise above adversity and create a life of purpose and success. Juan Reyes is an inspiration, not only to entrepreneurs but to all those who dare to dream big and overcome the odds.
Disney CEO Bob Iger rips Ron DeSantis over ‘anti-Florida’ retaliation
Bob Iger, CEO, Disney, during CNBC interview, Feb. 9, 2023.
Randy Shropshire | CNBC
Bob Iger on Monday called Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ actions against The Walt Disney Co. retaliatory, “anti-business” and “anti-Florida.”
The feud between DeSantis and the company escalated earlier Monday, when the governor asked the state’s inspector general to determine whether the House of Mouse’s sly move to retain control over the outer limits of Orange and Osceola counties is legal – and whether any of the company’s executives were involved in the scheme.
During the company’s annual shareholder meeting Monday, Disney CEO Iger addressed investor inquiries about the ongoing dispute between the company and Florida legislators. He noted that Disney has more than 75,000 employees in the state, and has created thousands of indirect jobs, as well as brings around 50 million visitors to Florida every year and is the state’s largest taxpayer
“A year ago, the company took a position on pending Florida legislation,” Iger said, apparently referring to what critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill. “And while the company may have not handled the position that it took very well, a company has a right to freedom of speech just like individuals do.”
He added: “The governor got very angry about the position Disney took and seems like he’s decided to retaliate against us, including the naming of a new board to oversee the property and the business. In effect, to seek to punish a company for its exercise of a constitutional right. And that just seems really wrong to me.”
Iger said Disney plans to spend more than $17 billion in investments at Walt Disney World over the next decade, which would create around 13,000 jobs at the company and generate even more taxes for Florida.
“Our point on this is that any action that supports those efforts simply to retaliate for a position the company took sounds not just anti-business, but it sounds anti-Florida,” he said. “And I’ll just leave it at that.”
Last week, DeSantis’ newly appointed board of the Reedy Creek district, now named the Central Florida Tourism Oversight District, revealed that the previous Disney-allied board signed a long-lasting agreement that drastically limits the control that can be exercised over the company and its district.
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks during ‘The Florida Blueprint’ event on Long Island, New York, United States on April 1, 2023. Ron DeSantis made comments on the Grand Jury’s indictment of Donald J. Trump, 45th President of the United States in Manhattan, New York.
Kyle Mazza | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
The agreement was signed on Feb. 8, the day before the Florida House voted to put DeSantis in charge. DeSantis replaced all of the Disney-allied board members with five Republicans on Feb. 27. It was only then that Disney’s new binding agreement was discovered.
The agreement includes a clause that dates back to 1692 in Britain. The “Declaration shall continue in effect until 21 years after the death of the last survivor of the descendants of King Charles III, King of England, living as of the date of this declaration,” the document said.
The governor’s letter calls the board’s agreement an attempt to “usurp the authority of the CFTOD board” and “nullify the recently passed legislation, undercut Florida’s legislative process, and defy the will of Floridians.”
He said at the agreement also has “legal infirmities” including inadequate notice, improper delegation of authority and ethical violations.
Disney, however, has said that all of the board’s maneuvers were completely legal — the agreement was discussed and approved in open, noticed public forums, in compliance with Florida’s Sunshine law.
The development in DeSantis’ conflict with Disney marks just the latest move in one of several partisan battles being waged by the Republican governor.
DeSantis is widely believed to be laying the groundwork to launch a 2024 presidential campaign. That move is expected to come not long after the current Florida legislative session ends in early May. Polls show that DeSantis is the most competitive of the potential opponents for former President Donald Trump in a GOP primary.
The Florida governor took aim at Disney after the company publicly balked at Florida’s HB 1557 law early last year. HB 1557, which critics called the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, limits early education teachings on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Republican state Rep. Randy Fine told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” last April that the bill dissolving Reedy Creek wasn’t retaliatory, but then said “when Disney kicked the hornet’s nest, we looked at special districts.”
Until recently, there had been no major public discussion about dissolving Disney’s long-established special district, which it’s occupied for 55 years, leading DeSantis’ critics to question its timing and the speed at which the governor acted against the company.
The fight between DeSantis and Disney shows no signs of slowing down. During a book tour stop in Georgia last week, DeSantis told attendees “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
WWE near deal to be sold to UFC parent Endeavor, sources say
World Wrestling Entertainment Inc. Chairman Vince McMahon appears in the ring during the WWE Monday Night Raw show at the Thomas & Mack Center August 24, 2009 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Ethan Miller | Getty Images
A deal could be announced as soon as Monday. UFC and WWE are expected to form a new publicly traded company as part of the agreement, according to the people, who declined to be named due to the confidential nature of the discussions.
Endeavor is slated to own 51% of the new combat sports and entertainment company, while WWE shareholders would get 49%, according to the people. The Endeavor deal gives WWE an enterprise value of $9.3 billion, they said.
Emanuel is expected to act as chief executive of both Endeavor and the new company. McMahon, likewise, is expected to be executive chairman, while Endeavor President Mark Shapiro will also work in the same role at the new company. Dana White will remain as president of UFC, while WWE CEO Nick Khan will serve as president of the wrestling business.
The development comes during the same weekend WWE hosts its flagship live event, WrestleMania, in California. The company has spent the past several months looking for a buyer. McMahon returned to the company as chairman in January to oversee the process. Shares of WWE are up more than 33% so far this year, giving it a market value of more than $6.79 billion.
The deal will effectively end WWE’s decades-old status as a family-run business. McMahon’s father founded WWE in its original incarnation during the middle of the 20th century, and McMahon is the controlling shareholder in the company. McMahon bought the company from his father in 1982. Since then, the company has grown into a global phenomenon, spawing stars suck as Hulk Hogan, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Dave Bautista and John Cena.
McMahon, 77, retired from the company in July following a string of revelations that he paid several women millions of dollars over the years to keep them quiet about alleged affairs and misconduct. His daughter, Stephanie McMahon, became co-CEO alongside Khan. Paul Levesque, who’s both Stephanie McMahon’s husband and the wrestler known as Triple H, took over creative duties from Vince McMahon.
When Vince McMahon came back in January, Stephanie McMahon stepped down and Khan fully assumed the CEO role. The elder McMahon recently locked in a two-year employment contract, according to a securities filing.
Khan in recent weeks has been making the media rounds to discuss the potential sale. He told CNBC’s Morgan Brennan on Thursday that it’s been a robust sale process, drawing many interested buyers.
WWE brings with it a robust media and live events business, along with its decades worth of intellectual property. The company generated $1.29 billion in revenue last year, driven mainly by its $1 billion media unit.
UFC has paid off for Endeavor. Last year, the MMA league helped Endeavor’s sports business make $1.3 billion in revenue. Endeavor’s market cap stood at about $10.53 billion as of Friday’s close. The Endeavor-WWE deal values UFC at more than $12 billion.
WWE, at least at a glance, would also fit well with the cultures at Endeavor and UFC. McMahon has a brash public persona, making him an apparently good match for Emanuel and White, who are also known for their outsized personalities.
White, like McMahon, is no stranger to scandal, either. Earlier this year, video emerged showing the UFC boss slapping his wife during a public argument at a New Year’s Eve party in Mexico. White apologized.
Disclosure: Peacock, the streaming service owned by CNBC parent NBCUniversal, carries WWE events such as WrestleMania.
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