This story is part of a series of profiles, The CannaInfluencers: The people shaping the cannabis industry in the Garden State. Written by NJ Cannabis Insider reporters, the profiles will publish in the weeks leading up to the Nov. 3 election, when New Jersey voters will decide whether to legalize recreational, adult-use cannabis.
Paul Josephson remembers his time at the University of Michigan, a decade after the city of Ann Arbor had decriminalized marijuana.
“It was an issue everybody was aware of,” Josephson said. “You could walk past a cop with a joint hanging out of your mouth. You’d get a $15 summons you would have to pay.”
Not true for the Black students he encountered for the first time at a large university. He said he learned that their experiences with police officers was very different than his.
“If you were Black or poor, it could especially derail your career,” he said.
Combine that with Josephson’s history in politics, beginning with him being elected president of UM’s student government and then choosing to go to law school in the nation’s capital, and you can explain why he got involved in efforts to legalize marijuana in New Jersey.
And don’t forget his background as a lawyer to New Jersey’s nascent casino industry when he returned to his native state after graduating from George Washington University Law School in Washington.
He began representing casino companies soon after New Jersey became only the second state (after Nevada) to legalize casino gambling, and then started representing cannabis companies soon after the state legalized weed for medical use.
“As cannabis was gaining steam in here in New Jersey, it was obvious we were going to confront many of the same issues as it was in the second state to legalize casino gambling,” Josephson said.