Earlier this month, New Jersey voted to legalize recreational marijuana, which will bring some much-needed tax revenue to the state. The amendment kicks in on Jan. 1, 2021. These changes could bring in around $300 million in additional revenue at a time when states need as much money as they can to safely reopen schools and provide unemployment benefits and other essential government services.
Now that the drug will be legal in the state, lawmakers are drafting legislation to set parameters for the growing industry. The Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) is tasked with creating regulations for pot growers and sellers, but smaller players say they’re getting cut short as the state issues licenses to large corporations looking to make a profit.
As a registered nurse and mother of a special needs child, Debi Madaio has been in the marijuana business for years, and now she wants a piece of the pie, so she can take her business to the next level.
Meet New Jersey’s “Marijuana Mom”
Debi Madaio is known as the owner of NJWeedman’s Joint, a popular weed-themed restaurant in Trenton, New Jersey. The place creates a unique atmosphere for local marijuana enthusiasts. The dining room resembles a growing room with tables, chairs, and furniture in the shape of cannabis.
Like many local businesses, the restaurant has struggled to make ends meet during the pandemic. They have been focusing on outdoor dining, take-out, and live outdoor music performances. Now that it’s getting colder, they plan on broadcasting these performances live online to attract more customers.
Madaio is also a medical marijuana patient. She uses the drug to relax and manage her pain naturally. For years, she’s been trying to cultivate a safe place for pot users to gather and partake in the drug, but she often faced pushback from the local community.
Commenting online, she wrote, “My partner and I have been early innovators here in New Jersey. We both knew this day would come and held steadfast with that vision. Yet we have been publicly vilified, terrorized and even raided for offering a compassionate refuge for pot lovers!”
Fighting to Get in on the Ground Floor
But now, weed will be legal. However, that doesn’t mean Madaio can finally make her dreams come true.
Major players in the rapidly expanding weed industry are looking to seize on this new share of the market by gathering up as many licenses to grow and sell as possible. The state says it will slowly expand the number of growers and sellers, but Madaio says it’s putting independent business owners like her at a disadvantage.
That’s why she started an online petition on the website Change.org, asking Gov. Phil Murphy to grant her business a recreational growing license, so she and her family can join in on the industry.
Madaio is passionate about expanding her business and sharing marijuana with the local community, but it’s also about spending time with her family. She currently works as a full-time RN, so she’s not at home as often as she would like to care for her two daughters and special needs son.
She started working in the Long-Term Care Unit as an Assistant Nurse Manager at a Children’s Specialized Hospital back in 2009. That’s where she met her now adopted son Aiden, a micro-preemie who was born at just 24 weeks gestation. He now suffers from a range of disabilities including a grade 4 bleed in his head, global developmental delays, autism, chronic lung disease, gastrostomy tube feeding dependence, incontinence of bowel and bladder, spastic quadriplegia, and a severe seizure disorder.
With a recreational marijuana license, Madaio says she would be able to turn her restaurant into the pot paradise she’s always dreamed of, which would likely attract customers from the tri-state area. It would cement NJWeedman’s Joint as one of the most notable restaurants on the East Coast.
This would enable her to work closer to home, so she can spend more time with her family and less time at the local hospital where she currently works.
As she writes online, “As the mom of a special needs son, I have sacrificed a lot to see this day. It’s just not fair that corporate entities will be allowed to swoop in and benefit off of our blood, sweat and tears. Governor Phil Murphy is promising inclusion for the underserved. I want to make sure he fulfills his promise.”
Madaio has also emerged as one of the leading female voices in the fight for legalizing marijuana. She works with Ed “NJWeedman” Forchion, a prominent voice for decriminalizing the drug. She is working to change our understanding of weed, so more people will be willing to give it a try.
We wish her Madaio and her family luck as they pursue this new chapter.