Charles Barker was named to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission on Wednesday by Gov. Phil Murphy — and will occupy a seat previously announced for William Wallace.
Barker, a policy staffer for U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), was included in the commission after Murphy’s previous five-member panel was criticized by the NAACP and others for its makeup. Barker addressed the issue in a statement.
“As a young Black man from an underserved neighborhood in New Jersey, I am humbled to join the Cannabis Regulatory Commission and bring my perspective to the table,” he said. “For generations, the misguided War on Drugs has devastated entire families and communities.
“I know this experience firsthand, from being unjustly profiled and pulled over, illegally searched and scolded many times by the police simply for the color of my skin. This is very real for me.
“Family members and friends of mine endured even harsher realities and have been gravely impacted by this war on people. I’m thankful to God and honored that the governor has entrusted me with the responsibility of promoting equity and restorative justice as we establish and regulate a new adult-use cannabis marketplace.”
Wallace will move to a senior staff role of director of labor relations for the commission.
Barker has served as constituent advocate and projects specialist for Booker since January 2017, managing several policy areas, including criminal justice reform and cannabis, economic and small business development, financial services, consumer protection, and technology and innovation.
During the 2018 election, he served as a strategic adviser to the campaign of Anthony Cureton, who was elected the first Black sheriff in Bergen County. Barker has also served as associate general counsel for Alma Realty Corp. and legal intern for Wilentz, Goldman, & Spitzer; Enterprise Community Partners; the Elder Rights Clinic at South Brooklyn Legal Services; and the Community Development Clinic at Brooklyn Law School.
Barker earned his undergraduate degree in 2010 from Rutgers University and Juris Doctor in 2014 from Brooklyn Law School. A native of Passaic City, Barker is a proud member of Calvary Baptist Church of North Jersey at Garfield, as well as the National Action Network.
Richard Smith, president of the NAACP New Jersey State Conference, praised the selection, but lamented the process.
“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,” he said.
“That said, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate Charles Barker, as he will be appointed to the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission. He is truly a phenomenal young man who has led numerous initiatives for Sen. Cory Booker. He and I have had the opportunity to talk, and he truly understands the importance of this commission and his pivotal role to ensure the law is implemented correctly.”
Booker applauded the move.
“Charles has been an incredibly valuable member of our team with an important voice on issues from criminal justice reform to equitable marijuana legalization policy,” he said. “I know he will continue to stand up for justice in this new role.
“While we will miss Charles and the incredible spirit he brings to our team, I am confident that he is the right person for this historic responsibility, and all of New Jersey will be better for it.”