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How to Win a Cannabis License In New Jersey as an Impact Zone Business

As of fall 2021, New Jersey is gearing up to launch its much-anticipated legal cannabis industry. In a previous article, we laid out the cannabis licensing requirements in the Garden State (we suggest you revisit it to familiarize yourself with the landscape).

In today’s post, we’ll be drilling down a little deeper into the topic of “impact zones.” These state-defined regions are earmarked for investments generated by cannabis revenues. What’s more, license applications from entrepreneurs with ties to these regions will be given priority when it comes to licensing approvals.

If you’re interested in applying for a cannabis license in New Jersey and you qualify as an impact zone business, we urge you to make the most of this special opportunity. Here’s everything you need to know.

Cannabis Licensing Requirements in New Jersey: What is an Impact Zone?

Earlier this year, New Jersey’s newly-enacted adult-use law established the legal framework for the state’s adult-use cannabis industry. And from the start, the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) has demonstrated a commitment to addressing social impact in cannabis. That’s why the CRC’s application criteria prioritizes residents of impact zones: municipalities negatively impacted by unemployment, poverty, and/or past cannabis enforcement activity. 

Although the State has not published a list of municipalities that qualify as impact zones, based on the criteria stated in the law, New Jersey’s designated impact zones likely include: 

  • Atlantic City
  • Bridgeton
  • Camden
  • Commercial Township
  • East Orange
  • Elizabeth
  • Franklin Township
  • Irvington
  • Jersey City
  • Newark
  • Maurice River Township
  • Millville
  • New Brunswick
  • Orange City
  • Passaic
  • Paterson
  • Perth Amboy
  • Plainfield
  • Quinton Township
  • Salem City
  • Trenton
  • Vineland

The CRC will prioritize impact zones businesses in the application process, and the law establishes three ways to qualify as an impact zone business:

  1. The business is located, or intends to be located, within an impact zone; 
  2. More than 50% of the ownership interest is held by a current resident or residents of an impact zone who have resided there for three or more consecutive years at the time of application; or 
  3. The business presents a plan, along with an attestation, to ensure that: 
    1. At least 25% of its employees reside in any of the State’s impact zones, and 
    2. Among the employees who reside in impact zones, at least 25% reside in the impact zone nearest to the cannabis business’s location or intended location.

What’s in it for the actual impact zones? Quite a lot, actually. State regulations call for 70% of cannabis-derived revenues to be reinvested in these areas in the form of grants, loans, reimbursement of expenses, and other considerations. And with New Jersey’s cannabis market set to achieve a projected value of $1.2 to $1.5 billion by 2023, these programs are expected to generate quite an impact indeed.

That’s not the end of the story when it comes to New Jersey’s efforts to level the playing field. In addition to the priority given to residents of impact zones, the CRC will allocate 15% of licenses to minority-certified businesses and an additional 15% to those owned by women or disabled veterans.

Cannabis Licensing Requirements in New Jersey: Maximize Your Chances of Success

While the CRC hasn’t yet made public the exact components of its point scale, we can draw upon our deep experience in the industry to forecast some of the criteria New Jersey’s commission will be considering:

  • 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

If you’re committed to entering New Jersey’s burgeoning legal cannabis industry, Bridge West is ready to help. With a proven track record—since 2009, we’ve helped over 400 applicants all across the United States win cannabis business licenses—we guide entrepreneurs through the many rules, regulations, and potential pitfalls involved in securing a cannabis license. Whether you qualify due to your designation as an impact zone business, are a diversely-owned business, or are any other type of applicant, we have the experience and skill to help you chart a course for success. Ready to talk? Reach out anytime.