State lays out plan for how NJ can spend its marijuana millions
TRENTON – State regulators gave conditional approval to 81 more recreational marijuana businesses Thursday and approved a report being sent to the Legislature outlining suggestions for spending the state’s tax revenues from legal weed sales.
The report outlines recommendations for how to allocate revenues from the social equity excise fee added to each sale. Ultimately those decisions are made by lawmakers and the governor.
The recommendations include money to help aspiring entrepreneurs pay their rents, mortgages and utility bills while they start their business and a long list of other priorities – but nothing for police beyond what’s legally mandated.
“By investing cannabis revenue in a program to provide grants or low-interest loans to social-equity applicants or to other individuals, New Jersey could extend already successful equity initiatives to spur a diverse and equitable cannabis industry,” said Sam Delgado, vice chairman of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
Long list of ideas
The ideas in the report include:
A first-time homebuyer’s program for families most harmed by decades of drug enforcement efforts.
Reentry support services such as housing, job training, skill development, medication and wraparound services.
Mental health help through early intervention support services and urgent care centers.
Other health initiatives such as maternal and restorative healthcare and work on HIV/AIDS.
Addiction services and state regional health hubs to help with harm reduction.
Public health and safety messaging, data collection, clinical research and the creation of technologies to identify cannabis impairment.
Workforce development through scholarships, vocational training, professional certificate programs, apprenticeship programs, business development and financial literacy.
Youth services funding for at least one community resource center in each county as well as wraparound services such as recreation, tutoring, mental health services and afterschool enrichment.
Fifteen percent of the revenues go into a fund that’ll be used for efforts to deter underage use of marijuana.
Tax low now but will rise
In the long run, an extended list of priorities like that could get funded – but in the short term, the revenues are going to be limited. The CRC anticipates the social equity fee will generate less than $3.7 million in revenue between April 2022 and June 2023.
The social equity excise fee is currently $1.10 per ounce, one-third of one percent of the average retail price. It begins to increase nine months after the first sale, which would start in late January.
The fee will eventually be $10 per ounce if the average price is over $350 an ounce; $30 per ounce from $250 to $350; $40 per ounce from $200 to $250; and $60 if the average gets below $200.
“Right now, it’s set at a low level, which is good,” said Jeff Brown, the CRC’s executive director. “And it will increase over time as prices decrease.”
'Legacy' sellers going legit
The majority owners of the businesses holding 56 of the first 148 conditional licenses to enter the legal recreational cannabis industry in New Jersey have past marijuana convictions, according to CRC data. Brown said the numbers are promising.
“We have heard from stakeholders from day one that it is vital to ensure that people with past marijuana convictions have a leg up in this market,” Brown said. “The data that I presented showed that our process is giving them that.”
The CRC approved another 81 conditional licenses for companies looking to get into the recreational marijuana business. It’s a preliminary approval that enables them to take additional steps toward the start of operations, but it isn’t approval to open their doors.
In fact, none of the 148 conditional licenses issued between March and May have been converted to full annual operating licenses yet, through Brown said that is likely to happen soon.
The CRC meets on July 28, skips a monthly meeting in August, then is back on Sept. 22.
The newest license awardees
The 81 new licenses include 22 for cultivators, 11 for manufacturers and 48 for retailers. In some instances, the same business got multiple conditional licenses – for instance, one for growing and one for manufacturing.
Standard businesses: PR NJ LLC, Suufi Cannabis Inc., Grasshopper Farms NJ LLC, Forchion Farms LLC, Green Leaf Pharma NJ, Cannabilities LLC, Cann SC LLC, Achira Inc., Iron Falls Growery LLC and Grow Equity Ventures LLC
Microbusinesses: Jerzey Grow LLC, Alpha Genetix, Roman Brothers Cannabis Inc., Scarlet Gardens LLC, Ganja Kulture LLC, A Grow Culture LLC, High Street Industries, FullTilt Labs LLC, Woke Gardens LLC, Power Grow LLC, City Soleil LLC and Garden State Green Genetics
Standard businesses: PR NJ LLC, Suufi Cannabis Inc.. Forchion Farms LLC, Grasshopper Farms NJ LLC, Blue Violet Grow LLC
Microbusinesses: Shnicks Shnacks, Ganja Kulture LLC, Sweetes Sweets LLC, FullTilt Labs LLC, Achira Inc., Royal Dynastic Organics LLC
Standard businesses: VicTree Gardens LLC, Canna Remedies LLC, Medusa NJ LLC, Shore Releaf Dispensary LLC, Phasal LLC, West Orange Wellness LLC, Ivy Hall NJ LLC, Emerald Isle Dispensary Inc., Mantis Cannabis of New Jersey LLC, Story Dispensary of Springfield LLC, Cottonmouth Dispensary, Kind Kulture LLC, Woodbury Cannabis Company, Deo's Garden LLC, Mariamba LLC, Merry Juana, Soulful Harvest LLC, West Retail Corporation, NJ Green Care, Buddy LLC
Microbusinesses: Premium marijuana shop, High Society Club LLC, Burkina Boiz, Larry's Best Buds LLC, Lovely Leaf, Nirvana Dispensaries LLC, Strictly CBD LLC, CannaVibes, Hazey Gardens LLC, Loud House LLC, Canabee, Bakin Bad LLC, Yummy Lipz Dispensary, Terra ReLeaf LLC, High Key 201 LLC, MariJayne's Touch, Island Vibez, CannAbyss Dispensary, Royal Roll LLC, Drty Jrzy Kdz, Treehouse Dispensary LLC, Jersey Leaf LLC, Greenhou,se Garden LLC, JC Element LLC, Treehouse Ventures LLC, RB Fire Company, Green Haven Industries, Peaches Garden LLC
Additionally, Hillside Med became the first company that won a license through the 2019 solicitation for new medical marijuana businesses to get a permit to start operating. It is a cultivator based in Morris County, independent without a dispensary of its own.
The CRC also approved proposing permanent rules for the adult-use recreational marijuana industry that would take effect starting in late February 2023. Those rules will be published Aug. 1, and public comment will be taken through Sept. 30.
The proposal includes rules for wholesalers, distributors and delivery services. It clarifies that bathrooms and breakrooms don’t count toward the 2,500 square foot size limit for microbusinesses and makes THC and CBD levels clearer to improve safety for consumers. Application fees aren’t changed.