Diversity in New Jersey Cannabis Program
New Jersey might be the fourth smallest state in the nation, but it is one of the most diverse in the country with residents of color making up nearly 45 percent of the population.
Over a third of the state’s residents are foreign born, as are a third of New Jersey’s business owners. Minority and women-owned businesses make up over half of the state’s enterprises.
With such a diverse population, it’s no surprise that when New Jersey legalized recreational marijuana in February there was a large social equity component included in the bill.
According to the law, 30 percent of the licenses must be allocated to businesses owned by women, minorities or disabled veterans. Additionally, at least 25 percent should be allocated to residents of impact zones, which are municipalities that have more than 120,000 residents that: rank in the top 40 percent of municipalities in the state for cannabis-related arrests; have a crime index of 825 or higher; and have a local average annual unemployment rate that ranks in the top 15 percent of municipalities.
Despite the robust social equity program, it’s already run into delays that could stall adult-use sales and license applications. The governor’s office is dealing with the threat of a lawsuit from the NAACP. The group claims Governor Phil Murphy violated the law that created the cannabis commission by not appointing a commissioner who is a member of a national social justice or civil rights group. The Governor is also facing backlash over not appointing a Black man to the commission.
Once the commission issues are sorted out, licenses will be available in cultivation, manufacturing, wholesale, distribution, retail, delivery and testing. It appears that there will be no more than 37 cultivation licenses available, with the number of other licenses unspecified so far.
Industry insiders believe that New Jersey’s adult-use market could be worth more than a billion dollars so competition for the lucrative licenses will be brisk.