Booker aide tapped for cannabis panel after NAACP pressure

Marijuana buds are seen in a glass jar

Marijuana buds are shown at Huron View Provisioning in Ann Arbor, Mich., Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy on Wednesday named a staffer for U.S. Sen. Cory Booker and member of the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network to the new state commission charged with setting up and regulating recreational marijuana.

Charles Barker’s nomination came after the state NAACP pointed out that the five-member board did not include any Black men. Barker is Black.

“I am sincerely disappointed that the NAACP had to go to such lengths to ensure that the Marijuana Legalization Law was followed and that this commission was reflective of the communities most harmed by this failed war on drugs,” said state NAACP President Richard Smith. “That said, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Charles Barker as he will be appointed to the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission.”

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Smith referred to part of the state law that Murphy signed last month that required at least one member of the board to come from a national or state branch of a national organization with a mission of studying, advocating or adjudicating against historical oppression of minorities.

Barker’s appointment means that William Wallace, a labor executive, will no longer be on the Cannabis Regulatory Commission and instead is moving to a staff role for the panel.

Since 2017, Barker has been a constituent advocate working for Booker. He managed several policy areas, including criminal justice reform. A lawyer by training, Barker is a Passaic native.

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He joins Dianna Houenou, who will chair the board, and fellow appointees Maria Del Cid, Sam Delgado and Krista Nash.

New Jersey voters approved recreational marijuana for those 21 and older in November, but it took until February for lawmakers and Murphy to hash out legislation setting up the marketplace.

Murphy has said the commission could take up to six months to set up rules allowing for recreational marijuana to hit the market.

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