Governor Phil Murphy recently chose his pick to head NJ’s new cannabis regulatory commission by choosing former ACLU employee, Dianna Houenou. In a recent Philadelphia Inquirer article that interviewed Houenou, she said that she worked for the ACLU and was in charge of a coalition called New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform, traveling up and down the state educating the public on racial justice. What she failed to mention in that interview though, was she was acting as a Governmental Affairs Agent, better known as a lobbyist, lobbying the state senate on the legalization of marijuana, which included forming the commission that she has now been put in charge of.
Whether that is legal or not we do not know, but having lobbied the sponsor of the bill, Senator Nicholas Scutari, for three years on forming the very commission she now heads could give some the sense of some impropriety. Last week we reached out to the NJ Elections commission to ask about another NJ Lobbyist, former Mayor of Point Pleasant Beach, Stephen Reid, and whether he or the entity, NJ RAMP, had any complaints lodged against them only to learn that there hasn’t been a complaint filed on a lobbyist nor entity for 11 plus years. In 2009 at least 20 complaints were made against lobbyists in that year alone, yet for the next 11 years not one has been filed, which seems odd.
Houenou directly lobbied Senator Scutari for at least 3 years on the same bit of legislation that she now sits in control of as head of the commission. Like we said, we do not know if this is legal or not, but it sure makes us question the process. She said in the article by Sam Wood of the Inquirer that she traveled up an down the state talking about racial justice, but failed to mention that during that same time she was directly lobbying the Sen Scutari on the bill that led to the creation of her new role, something that if it were mentioned probably wouldn’t have made her look like the outsider she claimed to be in the article, but just another NJ insider using the system to her advantage.