Cannabis Equity Employment opens in N.J. to help connect cannabis jobs with those impacted by war on drugs

Anyone with a past cannabis conviction looking for employment need not worry about finding a job. Thanks to a new, first of its kind, employment database developed to offer priority employment to those with previous cannabis convictions, applications for people from designated target communities will be prioritized, according to a Wednesday announcement from the Cannabis Equity Employment.

For decades, the war on drugs has caused substantial harm and disproportionately affected Black, indigenous and people of color, or BIPOC people, and others from marginalized communities, reinforcing societal inequality and contributing to a vicious cycle of criminalization and incarceration.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission believes in helping connect cannabis jobs with those impacted by the war on drugs.  This is where Cannabis Equity Employment will make a difference, as the company’s employment database includes candidates with past cannabis-related convictions. In fact, qualified applicants can post their resume on the site free of charge. Prior convictions include misdemeanor to felony charges of cannabis paraphernalia, cannabis possession, possession with intent to distribute, cultivation and trafficking. New Jersey recently implemented a program that allows cannabis convictions to be expunged, but not having done so does not disqualify a candidate from posting their resume with CEE.

“Our mission is to connect individuals who have been negatively impacted by the now-defunct cannabis prohibition laws, to stable employment opportunities in the cannabis industry. In doing so we will help reduce rates of recidivism and promote a more equitable cannabis industry,” CEO Jesse Marie Villars said.

As the owner of “Baked by the River” in Lambertville, Villars has been able to address the issue firsthand. Both Villars and CEE President Cord Schlobohm have previous cannabis convictions and can speak about the barriers they have faced in finding employment.

“There is a tremendous opportunity to access talent. People with past cannabis convictions make up the legacy of the cannabis marketplace and are the experienced experts the newly legal cannabis industry needs,” Schlobohm stated.

Anyone with a past cannabis conviction looking for employment can submit a resume on the site without incurring a fee. And, because the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission is encouraging cannabis businesses to give hiring preferences to people with past cannabis convictions as part of the restorative justice component of the new cannabis law, CEE leverages the conviction as part of the hiring process. Employers can join the database system for $59 a month.

Partnerships and collaboration will be key to the success of this venture.

“As our first collaboration, we have partnered with the Minority Cannabis Academy, whose cannabis job training and certification courses we will offer as a resource to the job candidates who sign up through our site,” Chief Operating Officer Adrian Clarke explained. “They offer a variety of cannabis training courses, from budtender training to extraction, processing, cultivation, entrepreneurship and the law.”

To increase their connection with job seekers, CEE is also partnering with the One-Stop Career Centers and the Drug Court Program through the Office of the Public Defender and will be working with Black Cannabis, a Trenton-based organization established to be the voice of diversity in the cannabis industry.