Debi Madaio is recognized by many as Trenton New Jersey’s “First Lady of Weed.” As the former majority owner of NJWeedman’s Joint, the once popular marijuana-themed eatery located in the state’s capital city, Madaio has defiantly honed her legacy as a heroic cannabis mompreneur. A registered nurse, cannabis activist, mother to two daughters and an adopted special needs son, Madaio was an influential force behind the scenes of the business. Now celebrating several cannabis ‘wins’, including the opening of her new shop, The Weed Stalk in Somerset, NJ; the awarding of a New Jersey conditional cannabis license; and inclusion on the Insider NJ 100: Cannabis Power List, Madaio believes her biggest triumph is as a domestic violence survivor.
Running a small business while working full time as a registered nurse and caring for a special needs son was challenging enough to say the least, but like most DV victims, Madaio remained silent about her past six years maintaining a supportive stance as a business owner and partner at NJWeedman’s Joint. It was New Jersey’s daily paper, The Trentonian, that first went public with the misfortune Madaio suffered.
A lifelong resident of New Jersey, Madaio was recently awarded a conditional recreational license from the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, which allows her to proceed with securing a final recreational license to operate The Weed Stalk as a marijuana dispensary. As the sole proprietor of one of the first few woman-owned dispensaries in the state, her goal is for The Weed Stalk to be a safe and supportive haven for all women in the cannabis community.
However, her inclusion on Jay Lassiter’s “Insider NJ 100: Cannabis Power List” is the icing on the cake. She is ranked as among the state’s most politically influential voices in the cannabis movement, including advocates, lobbyists, lawyers, caretakers, and industry professionals positioning themselves in New Jersey’s budding multibillion dollar cannabis industry.
“I had been led to believe that I had no identity or merit. Like so many survivors, I was made to feel like my role, my support and my financing was inconsequential to the bigger picture,” reveals Madaio. “But I’m still here, I’m thriving and more importantly, my contribution to the cannabis community is still being seen and recognized.”
Located just across the street from the Trenton City Hall, NJWeedman’s Joint was initially founded and financed by Madaio in 2015 and eventually garnered national accolades for its contribution to cannabis culture. In March 2017, the eatery came under scrutiny per an undercover operation and raid that garnered national media attention. Madaio was left to fight for the survival of the business. Via her relentless efforts, she and her former partner became Bonnie & Clyde archetypes for some six years, rallying to spearhead the legalization of marijuana in Trenton. NJWeedman’s Joint went on to become a popular tourist spot and media darling, and Madaio in due course, opened The Stash Spot, a boutique accessories and smoke paraphernalia shop, inside the business.
Over the years, Madaio estimates she invested over a half-million dollars into NJWeedman’s Joint. Since her reluctant departure, NJWeedman’s Joint, the restaurant, has since spawned numerous spinoff enterprises including a lucrative, though not yet legal, marijuana dispensary in Trenton, The Joint of Miami, a hip hop nightclub and Forchion Cruises in Miami, FL.
“I think it’s important I share all of my truth,” asserts Madaio. “I’m in a place now where I’m finally empowered as a DV survivor because honestly, the entire ordeal nearly killed me. My new storefront, The Weed Stalk LLC, is symbolic on so many levels. I’m the tiny seed that was covered in dirt and darkness, yet I was still able to grow and reach for the light. If just one woman hears my story and is empowered, I am eternally grateful.”
Madaio has an undergraduate degree in criminal justice (BSCJA) as well as in Nursing (RNBSN). While currently working full time, she envisions The Weed Stalk providing work and income closer to home and nearer her special needs son. NJWeedman’s Joint was once called ‘the happiest place on earth’ by Extraction Magazine and Madaio’s mission is to resurrect that vibe again. She is not just a facade of happiness, it’s authentic now.
Madaio is penning a tell-all book about her experiences called “Surviving NJWeedman.” Per the recent wave of DV survivor related docuseries on streaming platforms like Netflix, including “Bad Vegan: Fame. Fraud. Fugitives,” “Untold, Deal With the Devil,” and “Dirty John,” perhaps her #MeToo marijuana story will be told onscreen as well.