New Jersey Governor Visits Black-Owned Cannabis Facility

Prolific Growhouse founder David Nicolas recently escorted Gov. Phil Murphy on a tour of the facility.
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New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy recently visited Prolific Growhouse on May 30 to tour the facility, speak with founder David Nicolas about his journey as a business owner, and learn about the strain named after him.

During the tour, Nicolas showed Murphy various parts of the operation, including cultivation, processing, and packaging. Nicolas explained that he’s looking toward expanding his operation, since he doesn’t currently utilize all of the space he rents out. His plans include an increase in rooms for flowering plants and clones, an updated irrigation system, as well as packing rooms, “a vault,” and an employee break room, according to WHYY. “To finish this, we’ll need $700,000,” Nicolas said. “We were fortunate enough to get a NJEDA grant, which covered a small portion of it.”

Murphy signed the New Jersey Economic Act of 2020 into law in January 2021, which created a seven-year plan to provide $14 billion in “tax incentive, financing, and grant programs that will address the ongoing economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and build a stronger, fairer New Jersey economy.” The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) is the agency that manages such grants, with an overall mission to promote the state economy.

Nicolas is a first generation Haitian American and New Jersey native who sold cannabis to help his family. “I use cannabis to survive and pay bills,” Nicolas explained. “My mom, she had breast cancer [when] I was growing up. By the time I was 13, cannabis was the only way of putting food on the table.”

Later on, when attending Rowan University in Glassboro, New Jersey, he was using medical cannabis personally, but also sharing its benefits with other students in need. He said that athletes would seek him out to obtain cannabis to help manage stress during their finals.

Unfortunately, in 2019 he was being pulled over by police more often. “It wasn’t by normal police,” said Nicolas. “I wasn’t being asked for my ID when I was getting pulled over. It was basically stop and frisk, most of the time.”

This led to multiple arrests, which threatened to end his college career. One of his court appearances was on the day of one of his finals. “I had to explain to my professors who didn’t want me to skip this final on why I had to skip this final, because it was either between my degree or my freedom,” he added.

Nicolas founded PGH in 2021, and in February 2021 Murphy signed three cannabis-related bills into law. A1897 removed criminal penalties for cannabis possession for up to six ounces of flower or 170 grams of hash, decriminalized the transfer of one ounce of cannabis from one adult to another, and reduced distribution penalties for large amounts of product. A21/S2 set up regulations for cannabis production and sales and established a sales tax where 70% would be given back to low-income communities. A5342 implemented new rules for underage cannabis possession penalties that lead to community service rather than prison time, as well as prohibits police from using the smell of cannabis to search youth.

Today, PGH has 10 employees, which adds up to an average age of 25. “This group is probably the youngest in the nation, operating a legal cannabis business,” explained Nicolas. “But everyone here has hustle, and is definitely dedicated towards this company.”

“People who come from my background, especially from the inner city, [most] don’t have the amount of capital that it takes to start up one of these,” Nicolas said about PGH. “I think the state can do a little better; provide more grants, allow the grants that are open for businesses that are non-cannabis to be open for cannabis businesses.”

Murphy expressed his pride in seeing more diverse business owners and operators within the industry, but wants to see more. “I still want to see… more equity, more reward and redemption for the folks who were crushed by the war on drugs,” Murphy commented on Nicolas’ success so far. “You’re a role model for exactly what we want this industry to look like,” he said. “Somebody who has been crushed, sadly, on the one hand by the war on drugs and has reemerged as a bright star.”

The strain, dubbed “Murphy’s Sourz” was originally sold starting in January. “Our Murphy’s Sourz is a dynamic Sativa canna strain, born from the union of Sour OG and Tangie,” PGH wrote on Instagram. “This strain strikes a perfect balance between the uplifting euphoria and calming relaxation, making it suitable to combat stress, anxiety, and pain. The flavor is a delightful mix of sour lemon, sweet tangerine, with hints of diesel and pine.”

Nicolas explained the reason why they chose to name a strain after the state’s governor. “We were like, ‘Let’s try to get Governor Murphy’s attention with this one,’” Nicolas said, according to a WHYY news report. “I didn’t expect him to give me a surprise visit.”  When introduced to his namesake strain, Murphy said he was “honored.”

Following Murphy’s visit, he wrote a brief post on Facebook about his tour experience. “Toured Prolific Growhouse in Mount Holly today to see how our cannabis industry has matured since we passed legalization,” Murphy wrote. “Entrepreneurs like David Nicolas give me hope that we can build a strong and diverse industry that reverses some of the worst effects of the War on Drugs.”

According to the PGH website, Nicolas is committed to both the excellence for his business but also supporting change and promoting equity within the industry. “We not only produce top of the line cannabis products, but seek to invoke change in our communities as well,” said the company. “PGH is committed to making advances for social justice by providing opportunities for those affected by prior cannabis convictions. These opportunities will create progress towards diversity and inclusion within the recreational cannabis industry.”

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