Nearly 50 weed stores are now open. The time to invest in N.J.’s cannabis industry is now | Opinion

By Published On: September 27, 2023Categories: Member Blog

Over the past few weeks we saw a bevy of cannabis activity, from expansion of products to the approval of more licenses to the opening of new dispensaries. These combination of events and action, coupled with the work of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) to date, shows that now is the perfect time to invest in New Jersey’s cannabis industry.

A look at some basic facts tells the true story of the industry. Since the license application process opened in December 2021, the CRC has received thousands of applications. They have approved over 1,300 of those applications, including nearly 300 licenses for cultivation, manufacturing and retail stores. The CRC has done all this while establishing a new government agency, which in and of itself is not easy. Along the way more staff and resources have been added to help them in their goals.

The number of dispensaries in the state has grown substantially, from 18 at this time last year to nearly 50 today. Most recently, Puffin in New Brunswick and Queen City in Plainfield, two of the state’s newest dispensaries, came online. Over the last two months we have also seen expansion into Ocean and Morris counties.

This ever-expanding list makes sense when you consider the amount of time it takes to grow, cultivate and manufacture cannabis products and throw in the time it takes to set up a business itself. This can all take well over half a year. It stands to reason that as more businesses receive their licenses and more time passes, we will see more cannabis products on the shelves.

License expansion is also on the horizon, with wholesale, distribution and delivery licenses soon to become available for social equity applicants (those harmed by the drug war), and then to everyone else. More products will soon be available as well after the CRC expanded the list of allowable cannabis-infused products to include chocolates, baked goods, butters, jams and beverages at their last meeting.

All of this activity is occurring, meanwhile, as New York struggles to get its cannabis industry off the ground and Pennsylvania debates whether to legalize recreational cannabis at all. New Jersey is flourishing at just the right time.

Is New Jersey’s current system perfect? No. There are still two core issues that must be addressed.

After New Jerseyans overwhelmingly voted to approve legalization in 2020, the Legislature had to craft a bill that would lay out just how legalization would take place in our state.

In crafting the bill, it was believed that placing too many rules and regulations on municipalities would dissuade them from ultimately allowing cannabis businesses in their towns. As such, it was left up to the towns to decide how these businesses would take shape within their borders.

This, coupled with allowing towns to decide if they wanted cannabis businesses at all, was meant to encourage more cannabis commerce across New Jersey. Some municipalities, however, have used this to create cumbersome rules and regulations that make things difficult.

This is being addressed though. As more cannabis business come online and the overall benefits of having such a business become clear through tax generation and employment opportunities, more and more municipalities will start to recognize the benefits of allowing cannabis commerce in their town.

Moreover, groups like the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, the state’s largest business trade group, are taking active measures to engage and inform local officials about the cannabis industry.

I not only lead the NJCBA, which functions as a Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, but I’ve been in the trenches as an applicant and now as a license holder. I’m not alone when I say, funding also remains an issue.

Many cannabis entrepreneurs simply do not have the capital to get their business up and running, which often takes hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars.

Passage of the SAFE Banking Act, which would allow banks and credit unions to offer financial services to cannabis businesses that are legal in their states, and the current proposal by the Biden administration to reschedule cannabis will help alleviate this. Until that happens, however, it makes investing in the industry now critically important.

Still, these issues have not managed to hold back the industry from the recent successes and its steady growth.

Hundreds of licenses approved. New dispensaries opening. Expansion of available products. Wholesale, distribution and delivery on the horizon. The New Jersey cannabis industry is accomplishing great things every day, all while neighboring states struggle to get their own industry going.

Now is the absolute perfect time to invest in New Jersey.

Scott Rudder is president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association.

About The New Jersey CannaBusiness Association

The NJCBA’s mission is to promote jobs and growth in a sustainable and responsible cannabis industry. Starting with the pioneers in the medical cannabis market to the emerging players in the adult-use space, the NJCBA’s focus is to make certain that decision-makers and regulators understand and respect the needs of the CannaBusiness community and that our community remain responsible corporate citizens.

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