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How to Win a Cannabis License in New Jersey as a Diversely Owned Business

As New Jersey gears up to launch its much-anticipated legal cannabis industry, the Garden State is sending out a clear signal: The state intends to spur diversity in cannabis, and prioritization will be given to those cannabis business license applicants who represent diversely owned businesses. If you’re a woman, a member of an ethnic minority, or a disabled veteran, this presents an opportunity for you to secure a license in what will be a highly competitive arena.

We’ve talked about the cannabis licensing requirements in New Jersey before (we suggest you revisit that article to familiarize yourself with the landscape first). Today, we’ll talk about the ways in which the state plans to incentivize these diversely owned businesses and share some of the ways you can gain a competitive advantage.

Cannabis Licensing Requirements in New Jersey: Identifying Diversely Owned Businesses

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The desire to support diversity in cannabis is hardly limited to New Jersey. From coast to coast, many states have dedicated resources and special programs with the goal of bringing underrepresented populations into the legal cannabis industry. But New Jersey’s program—enshrined in the recently-adopted adult-use law—is robust and potentially far-reaching. The state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) earmarked nearly one-third of all cannabis business licenses to diversely owned businesses. At present, 15% of licenses will be awarded to businesses certified by the State of New Jersey as Minority-Owned Businesses, and an additional 15% will go to those with designations as Women-Owned Businesses and Veteran Owned Businesses.

On a technical note, New Jersey defines “diversely owned businesses” as those in which at least 51% of the ownership interest is held by persons who are minorities, women, disabled veterans, or any combination thereof; and the management and daily business operations are controlled by one or more of the minorities who own it. The State has a formal process to apply for these certifications.

Impactful though this stands to be, it’s not the end of the story. In addition to the priority given to minority applicants, the CRC will prioritize applicants with ties to “impact zones”—those municipalities negatively impacted by unemployment, poverty, or past cannabis enforcement activity.

In addition, the CRC—addressing concerns that many current cannabis license holders have out-of-state ownership—will give priority to longtime state residents. The Commission defines these as those people who have resided in New Jersey for at least five years and who hold at least a 5% stake in any entity seeking a cannabis license in New Jersey.

Cannabis Licensing Requirements in New Jersey: Get a Leg Up

As we stated earlier, New Jersey’s focus on diversity in cannabis presents a special opportunity for minorities, women, and disabled veterans. But these attributes on their own aren’t enough to guarantee success when it comes to crafting a winning cannabis business license application. Successful applications will need to demonstrate:

    • Direct experience in the cannabis industry
    • A detailed business plan that includes all pertinent, cannabis-specific aspects—including compliance software and reporting tools
    • Demonstration of financial and managerial competence
    • Environmental-impact plans and sanitation procedures
    • Safety and security procedures, including those for cybersecurity and diversion prevention
    • An emergency management plan, as well as procedures to report adverse events

Whether you represent a diversely owned business or not, Bridge West can dramatically increase your chances of application success. Over the past dozen years, we’ve helped over 400 applicants win cannabis business licenses all across the United States. We guide entrepreneurs through the many rules and regulations involved in securing a cannabis license, and the relationship doesn’t end there. With access to funders, mentors, and other key stakeholders, Bridge West is the partner you need to maximize your chances of success in this fast-moving and competitive industry.

Ready to talk? Reach out anytime.