Rutgers grad and Merchantville resident Noelle Skodzinski is the cofounder and editor of Cannabis Business Times, the only national print magazine for legal marijuana growers. A publishing veteran, Skodzinski, 44, launched CBT online in 2014; the first print edition arrived in November.
New Jersey Monthly: What do your friends and family say about your job?
Noelle Skodzinski: People think if you are involved in the cannabis industry, you automatically are a frequent cannabis consumer—and there are many people in the industry who are not. I also get a lot of jokes, like, “Can I get some samples?” But my family has been really supportive of it.
NJM: What does the magazine cover?
ND: Everything from helping cultivators navigate the regulations, which are always changing, to horticulture how-to, like how to deal with pests, because there are really no pesticides that are approved for use on marijuana.
NJM: What do you see as the chances for legalization in Jersey?
ND: It would be very difficult to get any legislation passed while Chris Christie is in office. He has outright said he would veto any legalization efforts…. New Jersey is also a bit behind because there is not a lot of support from the constituents where it’s important, like police organizations and the medical community.
NJM: You say the War on Drugs has failed. Why?
ND: The Drug Policy Alliance [a national advocacy group] has stated that 22,000 individuals were arrested for marijuana possession in New Jersey in 2010 [the most recent year in which data is available], at the expense of more than $125 million. When you look at that, and the fact that our current president and many of our former presidents have admitted to having smoked pot…how do you explain that to the people in jail?… Those people were just unlucky and got caught. I think it’s really unjust.
NJM: How does marijuana use relate to the epidemic of opiate addiction?
ND: The CDC released the statistic that 44 people die a day in the U.S. from overdosing on prescription pain medication. Whereas with marijuana, it’s impossible to fatally overdose. Research also shows that among states with medical marijuana programs, there are 25 percent fewer deaths by prescription painkillers.
NJM: What can New Jersey residents do about legalization while Christie is still in office?
ND: There’s a lot of people who consume cannabis themselves but are not advocating for change, so they are putting themselves at risk and can certainly get arrested. There are a lot of people who use it medically, but illegally. If all those people called their local and state legislators and said, “I support this. I want you to support this,” things would happen a little more quickly.
NJM: Cannabis is a Schedule I controlled substance, the most dangerous of the five categories on the federal government’s list. Where do you think it belongs?
ND: With all the factors involved—everything from the medical benefits to the research that shows how much less harmful marijuana is than alcohol and cigarettes—I don’t see any reason why it should be on that list at all…. Even if they reschedule it to a Schedule II drug, it would enable medical research, which would be fantastic.
NJM: A recent Newsweek cover story, “Women in Weed,” quoted a drug-reform attorney who said, “The mom in her 40s is the one with the power to push marijuana into the mainstream.”
ND: Absolutely…. Women are 51 percent of the voters in New Jersey. [They can] make or break any legislation. But also I think it’s a perception that women have been more reticent in coming forward and saying, “Yes, I smoke marijuana”…. As more women come out, the image starts to change. Showing a 40-year-old mom who is an avid cannabis consumer is going to change people’s perceptions.