Former N.J. drug dealer, now pardoned, in running for medical marijuana license

Trenton City Council expected to introduce ordinance to designate a section of the city as medical cannabis area

Cherri Gregg
September 04, 2018 - 2:49 pm
Tracey Syphax

Cherri Gregg | KYW Newsradio

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TRENTON, N.J. (KYW Newsradio) — A Trenton man who once spent time behind bars for dealing drugs is now in the running to become a medical marijuana dealer in the Garden State. 

Trenton City Council is expected to introduce an ordinance Tuesday that would designate a section of the city as a medical cannabis area.

"Who's in a better position to sell drugs than a drug dealer," said Tracey Syphax, founder of new company TrentonMetro, a health care-focused marijuana organization that filed for an application with the New Jersey Department of Health last week.  

The minority-founded company wants a highly sought-after license to operate a medical marijuana facility in New Jersey, specifically in Trenton.

"We believe that we can make a difference not only for the residents there through jobs and opportunity, but to the community itself," said Syphax, adding that the company will also teach residents how to own their own business.

Syphax has more than two decades of experience owning a highly successful business. He is the founder of Phax Group Construction, a million-dollar operation. He started it from the ground up after he was released from prison. 

In his youth, Syphax was a drug user and drug dealer and spent years behind bars for a slew of drug-related crimes. But he has since changed his life.

"When I started my first business 23 years ago, my experience was 17 years in the street, 17 years of selling drugs, using drugs," recalled Syphax, who credits his success to the discernment he learned while committing crimes. "I knew about product, I knew about customers, I knew about organization."

The "From the Block to the Boardroom" author was the first African-American business owner to be named Entrepreneur of the Year by the Princeton Chamber of Commerce. He was also honored by the Obama White House. Last year, former Gov. Chris Christie gave Syphax a full pardon, clearing a path for him to start TrentonMetro.

The organization proposes a 50,000-square-foot facility to grow cannabis and a 7,000-square-foot retail space that would employ more than 100 workers. In addition to making and selling medical marijuana, Syphax said his company will provide employees with entrepreneurial training so they can learn how to create businesses that can operate and help with the marijuana boom, which is expected to take place in Trenton.

Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora has indicated major support for brining medical marijuana to Trenton. Syphax produced a letter from the mayor, saying the city would be supportive of locating a medical marijuana facility.

"The city not only fully supports such an enterprise, but believes that it will be beneficial to serve the citizens of Trenton as well as those of Mercer County. The city has prepared an ordinance specifically designed to allow such use and intends to introduce the ordinance at the Sept. 4, 2018 council meeting."

Syphax said he is hopeful the Garden State will welcome a minority-founded medical marijuana facility.

"We have to be sure that those who have been affected by the failed war on drugs [will] benefit from what is going on now," he added. "I can be a voice for the voiceless."