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New Jersey Governor Murphy visits black cannabis grower

A “veteran” in the war on drugs

“I use cannabis to survive and pay my bills,” said Nicolas, a first-generation Haitian who grew up in Trenton.

“My mother had breast cancer [when] “I grew up,” he says. “When I was 13, cannabis was the only way to put food on the table.”

When he came to Rowan University, he said, he not only used cannabis for medicinal purposes, but also built a community. Nicolas claims many athletes on campus came to him during stressful moments, such as finals.

Around 2019, he noticed that he was being stopped by the police more often.

“It wasn't the normal police,” Nicolas said. “I wasn't asked for my ID when I was stopped. Most of the time it was basically just a stop and frisk procedure.”

He was arrested several times and almost got kicked out of college because he had to choose between a court date and a final exam.

“I had to explain to my professors, who didn’t want me to skip this final exam, why I had to skip this final exam because it was either a matter of my degree or my freedom,” Nicolas said.

Now using his experience as a positive, Nicolas assembled his team in 2021, the year Murphy signed three bills legalizing marijuana for recreational use. Prolific Growhouse now has 10 employees with an average age of 25.

“This group is probably the youngest in the country to operate a legal cannabis business,” he said. “But everyone here is hardworking and definitely committed to this company.”

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy poses with employees of Prolific Growhouse, a black-owned cannabis grower based in Mt. Holly, Burlington County. (Edwin Torres/Office of the New Jersey Governor)

Nicolas said the state is moving in the right direction when it comes to equality, but the lack of capital is the reason “diversity will no longer be the same”.

“People from my environment, especially from the city center, [most] “We don't have the capital to start a company like that,” he said. “I think the government can do a little more: provide more grants and make the grants that are open to non-cannabis companies open to cannabis companies as well.”

Anna Harden

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