Most Affected: Alvi Ghaznavi Helped the Community, New Jersey Objected

Alvi Ghaznavi’s cannabis journey began in his early 20s as a patient looking to treat his Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms that had once made work impossible and life unbearable. He’d pivot from the underground to the New Jersey medical market when the state legalized its use.

Living what he called “a very wholesome, blessed life,” Ghaznavi experienced a wave of personal milestones. By 2018, he’d gotten married to Juli, having their first child, Aniq, later that year. Their home and family, including their three dogs, were taking shape. The couple often hiked and enjoyed hosting dinner parties. They also took part in the Brown Paper Bag Movement, an organization focused on supporting the homeless with food and other essentials. 

In addition to helping others, business was frequently on his mind. “He’s always been an entrepreneur,” recalled Juli Ghaznavi, noting her husband operated diverse ventures, from EMF blockers to rare minerals and crystals. 

Ghaznavi also brought his entrepreneurial spirit into the cannabis space. He moved further into the medical arena, launching a CBD company, Miracle Seed, with Juli and friend Eric. All the while, Ghaznavi continued to dabble in the illicit marketplace, receiving cannabis and selling to community members seeking medical cannabis. His love and knowledge for the plant grew; so did his desire to provide others with similar medical results. 

“I became a connoisseur, and I also wanted others to have safe, affordable access to cannabis,” he told High Times

On September 21, 2018, life would change when the police and a narc team from the postal office arrested Ghaznavi at home while his wife and three-week-old-son slept in the family bed. He was charged with first-degree maintaining and operating a CDS facility. Today, Ghaznavi is confined to the South Woods State Prison in New Jersey, serving a minimum three-year sentence that could reach 12. All the while, Juli and their son await his return. 

Juli told High Times that every day feels like a marathon without an end in sight. “Everyone is beyond exhausted, depleted, and on some days, overcome with feelings of helplessness,” she said, adding that Aniq’s “sadness is really the most tragic part of it all.” 

Fearing Decades in Prison, a Plea Deal is Taken

The arrest shocked the Ghaznavis. Alvi went from preparing for his 3 p.m. realtor appointment to scout store locations to being in the back of a squad car. Juli, naked and in bed with their son, was soon pulled away from her child. She reported most officers wanting to take her outside without any clothes on, except one officer who allowed her to put on a shirt. 

Once outside, Juli went from confusion and anger to empathy for her husband. There he was, sitting in the back of a cop car in just his bathrobe. “He gave me one glance from the corner of his eye,” she recalled, noting the sadness in Alvi. “He couldn’t even lift his head,” she added.

He remembered thinking, “I couldn’t believe so many heavily armed cops were sent to arrest a harmless, unarmed family.”

The two were released after posting bail, only to come home to a life ransacked. “Aside from the cannabis, the police took most of our life savings, both of our vehicles, my cellphone with pictures that were priceless and our inventory for our CBD business,” he stated. 

Child Protective Services also became a regular fixture in their lives over the next three months until they were deemed fit to keep their son. 

He was initially wanting to fight the charges, contending that prosecutors opened the case unconstitutionally. Ghaznavi said he changed his mind when Juli was charged with taking part in the operation. He believes prosecutors used his wife as leverage. Like many others profiled in the series, Ghaznavi said he felt pressured to admit guilt despite wanting to go to court. In the end, the risk was not worth trying to prove his innocence.

“If we lost the trial, my wife would have 10 to 20 years, and I would face 20 to life,” said Ghaznavi, emphasizing they had only been arrested for cannabis and cash, not guns or harder drugs. 

Ghaznavi stated that pleading guilty and turning himself in was difficult. However, it was an easy decision to make as a husband and a father. In the end, Juli received probation. 

Courtesy of Juli Ghaznavi

Prison Impacts The Ghaznavis, Leading To Alvi’s Epiphany

In October 2019, with their child a year old, Ghaznavi began serving his sentence. The initial transition to prison was trying. He noted initial struggles adjusting to 18 hours of daily cell confinement, prison food and limited time to speak with family and friends. Access only became worse during the pandemic, with in-person visitations suspended. Once reopened, the Ghaznavis say Juli was denied visitation access due to her probation. 

Adjusting to the prison population was another concern. Ghaznavi was housed in maximum security for much of his stay, living with serious offenders and lifers. At the end of August, he told High Times he was being transferred to a new facility. 

Still, he said the most complicated adjustments were the lack of freedom to walk around and spend time with his now nearly three-year-old son. Juli remembers her son losing a significant amount of weight once Alvi went to prison, noting his drop from the 80th percentile of infants to 30th percentile. 

“It was devastating as a mom,” she said. While he has regained much of his weight, Juli reports the pain of not having his father persists. She recalls choking up anytime their son comes across a dandelion or when someone asks what he wants for his birthday. 

“He always says for dad not to be stuck,” she said. 

Despite the pains of being away and the constant threat prison presents, Ghaznavi says prison helped build his mental fortitude. “After a while, I came to realize that they can imprison my body but not my mind.” He noted he is an avid reader that enjoys meditating and working daily. 

Ghaznavi elaborated, “Prison helped me realize that happiness is a choice no matter the circumstances, and I learned how to be grateful even for the little things.”

Ali Ghaznavi
Courtesy of Juli Ghaznavi

As Dispensaries Profit, Alvi Ghaznavi Awaits His First Parole Hearing

An October 2022 parole hearing will be Ghaznavi’s first chance at freedom. If he does not receive parole, Ghaznavi’s sentence could keep him in prison until February 2028. Meanwhile, the family and groups like the Last Prisoner Project advocate for his release. 

He hopes that readers understand that his story represents a contrast in the emerging world of legal cannabis. As prisoners and families suffer, operators are opening up across the country. 

“At the time of my arrest, there were dispensaries in New Jersey that were running much larger and more lucrative cannabis operations than myself,” Ghaznavi said. He added that while the state profits off cannabis, it continues to impose harsh sentences on non-violent offenders like himself. 

Ghaznavi hopes he can gain support for his release. He established a Change.org petition calling for his release and hopes that garners the attention of Governor Phil Murphy. He said he needs help securing his release so that he can get back to supporting his family. 

“My family is going through it, and every day counts for us,” Ghaznavi said. 

The post Most Affected: Alvi Ghaznavi Helped the Community, New Jersey Objected appeared first on High Times.

Social Justice Organizations Host Expungement Clinic in New Jersey

Social justice advocates in New Jersey are flocking together to hold a special, free expungement clinic at Doubletree by Hilton Penn Station Hotel in Newark.

The clinic will be held on Tuesday, September 14 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. local time. Those who attend will get free support on how to expunge low-level cannabis convictions now that cannabis is legal in the state. 

The event will be hosted by 420NJEvents, a Black-owned cannabis lifestyle brand, and sponsored by Brach Eichler LLC, Columbia Care, REEForm New Jersey, Apothecarium, and Minority Cannabis Academy. Those who have been disproportionately affected by the War on Drugs will now have a chance to seek justice. Pro-bono attorneys from Brach Eichler law firm will be onsite to help and answer questions. 

“Why should some people have their lives ruined, while others are getting rich in the industry?,” said Brendon Robinson, Co-Founder & Vice President of 420NJEvents. This clinic will give people an opportunity to have a life after cannabis. No longer will low-level cannabis cimes ruin someone’s life.”

420NJEvents is a Black-owned cannabis lifestyle brand run by two childhood friends who bonded over cannabis and their loyalty to each other. Seeing first-hand what the War on Drugs can do, they vowed to make a difference in their community and take action.   

Thus, they formed 420NJEvents to spread awareness and education about cannabis in their community, and to explain how much the War on Drugs had impacted them. 

New Jersey Steps Up

“We’re focused on educating minorities around cannabis as an avenue to create generational wealth, and break into an emerging industry ripe with opportunity and alternative medicine,” they explained via a press release. “We promise to remain true to the culture, true to ourselves and provide you with all the up-to-date information that’ll help you navigate the cannabis industry!”

One of the pro-bono attorneys who will be offering his services at the event explained in a press release why this event is valuable to communities of color in New Jersey. “Marijuana laws have often disproportionately impacted communities of color. As New Jersey looks to establish its recreational marijuana market, there must be a focus on righting the societal wrongs that the prohibition of cannabis has created. We need more individuals, particularly Black and brown people, to understand the law and their rights, what it means, and how it can help them,” said Charles X. Gormally, Co-Chair of the Cannabis Law Practice at Brach Eichler LLC.

Events such as these help give valuable information to those who are interested in getting a fresh start after being impacted by the failed drug war. “If money is being made off the cannabis industry, we should ensure that revenue benefits the entire community not a select few,” said John D. Fanburg, Co-Chair of the Cannabis Law Practice at Brach Eichler LLC. “As we’ve seen in our cannabis practice, the most important thing we can do is ensure equal access and transparency in the industry so that people can be involved in a fair way. It’s the right thing to do.”

Many of those involved in putting on the event feel it’s there social responsibility to participate in expungement events. “Inequities have plagued the cannabis industry since it first started being legalized in select states,” said Ngiste Abebe, VP of Public Policy at Columbia Care, the cannabis cultivator supporting the event. “It’s our responsibility as leaders of this evolving industry to make social justice initiatives such as expungement a priority, especially ahead of adult-use sales and federal legalization. We’re thrilled to be partnering with like-minded organizations for this clinic and hopefully more to come.”

“As part of our commitment to fight for social justice, The Apothecarium is honored to partner with 420NJEvents for the expungement clinic being held in Newark, NJ.,” said Michelle Moleski, Director of Physician and Community Outreach for Terrascend NE. “We believe that community outreach activities such as this have a lasting impact, and we look forward to providing direct support to those negatively affected by the War on Drugs in our community.”

This free event is a positive first step to help many residents of New Jersey get their lives back following the disastrous effects of the War on Drugs.  

The post Social Justice Organizations Host Expungement Clinic in New Jersey appeared first on High Times.

New Jersey Lawmakers Set Regulations for Adult-Use Cannabis Industry

New Jersey lawmakers approved initial rules on August 19 that will set up the foundation for the state’s retail cannabis market.

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission met to discuss and incorporate rules that will regulate the state’s adult-use cannabis trade. The move was in response to Governor Phil Murphy’s August 21 deadline—set back in February.

Lawmakers will decide when the “Garden State” can officially start selling cannabis legally. However, New Jersey residents don’t need to hold on too long—because the commission must choose a date within 180 days of August 19.

Under the new regulations, adults ages 21 and older can purchase and possess up to one ounce of cannabis, but home cultivation would not be permitted, which is one of the main provisions activists typically target.

Three licensing categories will be designed to promote social equity by helping businesses that are minority- and women-owned or located in an economically challenged area. Six main licensing categories have been designated: cultivators, manufactures, wholesalers, retailers, distributors and delivery services. Gifting cannabis is legal between adults 21 and older under the new rules.

There will be no licensing caps—except for cultivators, which is set at 37, though that expires on February 22, 2023.

Since the state already has adopted a medical marijuana industry, it’s one step ahead when it comes to ironing out the details of recreational sales. Medical marijuana businesses can grow, process and sell cannabis to the general public as long as they have the proper licensing. Of course, these organizations will need enough pot to cover both New Jersey medical cannabis patients and the demands of the public.

As we saw in other states, demand can far outweigh expectations: When Illinois initially legalized cannabis, for instance, the state ran out of cannabis within six days of allowing recreational cannabis sales. It’s not clear whether or not New Jersey’s medical program has enough cannabis to back up the demand. 

We do know that nearly half of New Jersey towns have already decided not to allow cannabis retail in this initial phase of the state’s industry. In other words, New Jerseyans are extremely unlikely to have any trouble driving a few miles into a neighboring town to get legal grass. Towns cannot ban delivery sales, per the new rules.

Many New Jersey Towns Refuse Sales Until Rules are in Place

The August 21 deadline also calls for towns allowing cannabis sales to decide a number of little details on their local markets. For example, how many businesses they’ll allow, whether or not they want to restrict sales on the border with other towns, etc.

Being as no rules are set-and-stone, a large number of officials have simply decided to opt out of the market. However, rather than turning a blind eye to the potential of recreational sales, these officials simply want to wait and see how the industry operates within its first year.

One of the difficulties with this is the commission’s meeting is taking place just two days before the municipalities have an option to even weigh the rules. With that, there isn’t much time to consider what the best maneuver is for a community.

Still, even if a town decides not to operate in the market initially, they will be allowed to join in at any time they choose.

If passed, these laws will be enacted immediately and remain for one year’s time. This gives enough time for rules to play out and for the commission to determine the changes that will be required in the future.

If you’re eager to learn more about the rules the Cannabis Regulatory Commission puts into place, you can keep an eye out on its website for live updates.

The post New Jersey Lawmakers Set Regulations for Adult-Use Cannabis Industry appeared first on High Times.

Episode 61 – How New York and New Jersey Are Legalizing Marijuana with Evan Nison

Activist and entrepreneur Evan Nison speaks with hosts Jordan Wellington and Andrew Livingston about how their home state of New Jersey as well as New York as legalizing marijuana, as well as some of the work he’s done and is doing through his PR company NisonCo. Produced by Shea Gunther.

Episode 364 – A Tribute to Steve Fox

Betty Aldworth, Andrew Livingston, Jordan Wellington, and Mason Tvert join host Kris Krane to talk about the life and legacy of our friend and activist Steve Fox, who passed away at the age of 53 in April. Produced by Shea Gunther.

Photo: Nancy Lane/Boston Globe

Episode 363 – New York’s Big Marijuana Moves

Jeremy Berke joins host Ben Larson to talk about the rumored embrace of cannabis companies by the Toronto Stock Exchange, the substantial cannabis reform enacted in New York and the business opportunities soon to flow, and the latest news out of international cannabis. Produced by Shea Gunther.

Photo: Elsa Olofsson/Flickr

Wednesday, March 24, 2021 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Wednesday, March 24, 2021 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Marijuana Banking Bill Reintroduced In Senate With Nearly A Third Of The Chamber Signed On (Marijuana Moment)

// Texas Cops Just Arrested and Killed a Man for Possessing One Joint Worth of Weed (Merry Jane)

// Colorado Governor Signs Marijuana Social Equity Bill As Lawmakers Vote To Increase Possession Limit (Marijuana Moment)


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// New York Lawmakers Overcome Marijuana Legalization ‘Impasse’ And Expect Bill In ‘Next Day Or So’ (Marijuana Moment)

// South Dakota Governor Floats Marijuana Decriminalization As Part Of Medical Cannabis Compromise (Marijuana Moment)

// Trulieve Q4 Revenue Increases 24% Sequentially to $168 Million (New Cannabis Ventures)

// TerrAscend Q4 Revenue Increases 28% Sequentially to C$65 Million (New Cannabis Ventures)

// Ayr Wellness Completes $75 Million Arizona Acquisition (New Cannabis Ventures)

// Maine medical marijuana caregivers ‘greatly disturbed’ by proposed industry rules (Bangor Daily News)

// Maryland adult-use marijuana legalization effort fails for this year (Marijuana Business Daily)

Check out our other projects:Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement. • Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

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Tuesday March 23, 2021 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Tuesday, March 23, 2021 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// New Mexico Governor Plans Special Session On Marijuana As Legalization Bill Stalls On Final Stretch (Marijuana Moment)

// Same old Joe: Rebuffing staff who smoked pot fits Biden’s MO (Politico)

// North Dakota Senators Advance House-Passed Marijuana Legalization Bill (Marijuana Moment)


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// Cuomo Caves On Marijuana Homegrow And Equity Funding, Top New York Senator Signals (Marijuana Moment)

// Rhode Island Governor Supports Marijuana Expungements Despite Excluding Policy From His Legalization Plan (Marijuana Moment)

// West Virginia licenses medical cannabis testing lab (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Akerna Announces Financial Results for the Quarter Ended December 31, 2020 (Cision PR Newswire)

// Andrew Yang Urges Legalization Of Psilocybin And Marijuana At New York City Mayoral Forum (Marijuana Moment)

// New Jersey Governor ‘Open-Minded’ On Decriminalizing All Drugs (Marijuana Moment)

// As PA ponders legalizing pot, some 20200 possession arrests were made last year (Bucks County Courier Times)

Check out our other projects:Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement. • Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

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Photo: Third Way Think Tank/Flickr

Tuesday March 9, 2021 Headlines | Marijuana Today Daily News

Marijuana Today Daily Headlines
Tuesday, March 9, 2021 | Curated by host Shea Gunther

// Mexico’s landmark cannabis bill one step closer to becoming law (Reuters)

// D.C. Can Take Steps Toward Legalizing Marijuana Sales Amid Congressional Ban Feds Conclude (Marijuana Moment)

// MindMed Finds One Investor For C$19 Million Offering (Green Market Report)


These headlines are brought to you by Agilent, a Fortune 500 company known for providing top-notch testing solutions to cannabis and hemp testing labs worldwide. Are you considering testing your cannabis in-house for potency? Agilent is giving away a FREE 1260 HPLC system for one year! If you are a Cultivator, processor, or cannabis testing lab you may qualify for this giveaway. Open up bitly.com/cannabis-contest to answer a few quick questions to enter to win!


// One-third of Canadian cannabis users consumed more during pandemic (Marijuana Business Daily)

// Marijuana Legalization Bill Has ’60-40′ Odds Of Passing Connecticut Governor Says Adding He’s Open To Homegrow (Marijuana Moment)

// Hawaii Governor Has ‘Concerns’ About Legalization Bill Advancing In Legislature (Marijuana Moment)

// Colorado Bill Would Require Schools To Store Cannabis-Based Medicines For Student Use (Marijuana Moment (Colorado Newsline))

// Pot advocates cry foul on Noem using state funds for lawsuit (Associated Press)

// Biden’s USDA Secretary Gives Final Approval To Hemp Rules Despite Ongoing Industry Concerns (Marijuana Moment)

// Scutari Sweeney working on marijuana home grow bill (New Jersey Globe)

Check out our other projects:Marijuana Today— Our flagship title, a weekly podcast examining the world of marijuana business and activism with some of the smartest people in the industry and movement. • Marijuana Media Connect— A service that connects industry insiders in the legal marijuana industry with journalists, bloggers, and writers in need of expert sources for their stories.

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Photo: Lindsay Fox/Flickr