In the latest chapter in her career as an advocate for public health and social justice, Jackie Cornell is the new 1906 Chief of Policy and Health Innovations.
As part of the 1906 team, she looks forward to spreading awareness and access by working closely on regulatory and policy issues concerning cannabis. She will also focus on corporate responsibility and has an interest in aiding citizens who were previously incarcerated for minor drug possession offenses. In addition, Cornell plans to expand efforts to educate physicians and medical professionals on the wide-ranging benefits of cannabis.
“At 1906, every conversation comes back to how can we help people live better; whether that’s managing their anxiety, helping them get a good night’s sleep, or simply making their day a little bit more blissful—all things that lead to an improved quality of life,” says Cornell. “I’m thrilled to be a part of that."
Beginning in January 2018, Cornell oversaw the Public Health Services branch of New Jersey’s Department of Health. In her role of principal deputy commissioner, she was honored to push forward policy and programs that serve New Jersey’s most vulnerable citizens, tackling challenges ranging from the alarming black infant mortality rate to ending the HIV epidemic by 2025 to expanding the access and affordability of medical marijuana.
Increasing and improving the state’s medical marijuana program has been a critical goal for New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, and Cornell was grateful to bring the program to its next phase.
Through her efforts to address gaps and inequities in New Jersey’s medical marijuana system, Cornell became deeply aware of how both recreational and medicinal marijuana can improve people’s lives.
With a career focused on service and advocacy, shifting to the cannabis industry feels like a natural next step for Cornell. “The work we do in the next year or two will set the stage for the next half century of cannabis policy. The opportunity to build something meaningful—rather than trying to fix old problems—makes for a refreshing change,” she says.
President Barack Obama appointed Cornell regional director of the US Department of Health and Human Services, where she oversaw New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. Cornell has also worked for New Jersey Policy Perspective and the New Jersey Hospital Association, among other advocacy and government groups in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Passionate about leadership development, Cornell founded the New Jersey chapter of the New Leaders Council and remains active on their board. She began her career as a peer-to-peer health educator at Planned Parenthood.
“I’ve learned through my background in public health that we don’t see improvements by telling people what to do. We encourage them to make better decisions themselves by empowering them with information and education,” says Cornell.
Cornell sees a major role for education as national public policies around cannabis continue to catch up with public opinion. “People see the benefit in their own lives,” says Cornell, saying that she’s heard countless stories of people who’ve been helped by New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, particularly as a treatment for opioid addiction.
She believes that greater standardization of cannabis will allow people to know what to expect from individual products. She admires the work 1906 has already done to achieve safe, reliable, and predictable experiences for consumers and says it’s one of the reasons she’s so enthusiastic to join the team.
Cornell is a New Jersey native and a proud alumna of The Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy of Rutgers University and The College of New Jersey, where she is an adjunct professor teaching courses on gender, public policy, and advocacy.