The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) is engaging in a series of listening sessions with cannabis-industry stakeholders. The goal of these sessions is to focus on gaining a better understanding of the opportunities and obstacles new cannabis businesses may face. These challenges include access to capital and the high start-up costs associated with this new and emerging sector. NJEDA is interested in hearing comments, questions, and other key information to better understand the scope of the costs associated with starting a new cannabis business.

The NJEDA plans to use the feedback it receives from these sessions to explore potential assistance programs that can help to create equitable access to the cannabis industry. Research indicates that minority communities have been disproportionally affected by cannabis criminalization and potential assistance programs can help to create a more equitable and diverse cannabis industry.

“The NJEDA is conducting listening sessions throughout the State to better understand cannabis applicants’ experiences with navigating business start-ups and access to capital issues in this emerging industry,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “Stakeholder input can help design a potential cannabis grant program that brings equity and economic opportunity to communities and individuals who have been disproportionately impacted by cannabis prohibition and advances Governor Murphy’s vision for a stronger, fairer New Jersey.”

The NJEDA, together with the New Jersey Business Action Center (BAC) and the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC), is hosting listening sessions in Newark, Atlantic City, and Camden. Each session focuses on understanding stakeholders’ experiences and the amount of funds necessary to navigate any startup issues businesses may face in obtaining necessary permits and approvals.

“BAC provides support to businesses of all sizes every day, connecting them to resources in and out of government that can help them start and grow. It’s critically important that New Jersey cannabis licensee applicants, especially those in the social equity, legacy, Impact Zone, and microbusiness categories, access the technical assistance they need to submit successful applications to the NJCRC,” said Penni Wild, Deputy Executive Director of the New Jersey Business Action Center. “We currently work with applicants to find an available business name, show them how to secure their federal tax ID, state business registration and how to register as a woman/minority/veteran-owned or small business.”

“The legalization of cannabis in New Jersey represents the opportunity to launch a whole new sector in the Garden State and to do so with equity, inclusion, and social justice leading the way,” said NJEDA Chief Community Development Officer Tai Cooper. “By engaging with stakeholders at this early stage, we can create a program that fits the needs of small businesses as they grow and create jobs in this emerging industry.”

“We are excited for this new phase of setting up an equitable cannabis market in New Jersey,” said NJCRC Chair Dianna Houenou. “We know that access to capital is one of the largest roadblocks to diversity in the industry. As we try to lower that roadblock for as many entrepreneurs as possible, it is important that we let their voices guide how assistance programs are developed.”

While these listening sessions are by invitation only, members of the public who wish to provide feedback on this topic can email cannabis@njeda.com.