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New Jersey Launches Second Phase of Cannabis Seed Equity Grant Program

$8 million has been earmarked for social equity cannabis business applicants.

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The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA), an agency responsible for providing financial assistance to New Jersey-based businesses, recently announced that it will now be accepting applications for Phase II of its cannabis equity seed grant program. This phase includes a total of $8 million that will be split up between 48 applicants ($150,000 each).

The entirety of the Cannabis Seed Equity Grant Program offers a total of $20 million to applicants with either a conditional or annual cannabis license, with the goal of providing funds for start up and operation expenses during a business’s first three years.

The first phase of the program allocated only 40% of funds for social equity applicants, whereas Phase II is utilizing 100% of reserved funding for social equity purposes. The application window for Phase II opened on Nov. 30 at 10am, and approved applicants will receive $150,000 and “no-cost technical assistance,” which includes an eight-week program for grant recipients to benefit from in the form of webinars. “The technical assistance program will provide training on converting a conditional license to an annual license, building a cannabis business team, financial management, securing investors, supply chain management, and more,” NJEDA stated.

According to NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan, building out this program will bolster the state’s cannabis industry. “Under Governor Murphy’s leadership, New Jersey is on the forefront of creating a stronger and fairer cannabis market, especially for communities historically harmed by the unjust War on Drugs,” said Sullivan. “The Seed Equity Grant, which is specifically designed for social equity applicants, will help create an equitable, inclusive marketplace that will create jobs and strengthen communities, all while ensuring our entrepreneurs are able to reap the industry’s economic benefits and have access to the resources needed to succeed.”

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) also signed off on the effort to prioritize social equity. “We are excited to see grant funding being used to help social equity applicants realize their entrepreneurship dreams. Beyond the skills and business acumen it takes to be an entrepreneur in any industry, starting a cannabis business faces additional challenges—including limited access to traditional means of business funding,” said CRC chair Diana Houenou.

Phase I applicants were not required to have secured real estate or municipal approval for their cannabis business. For Phase II grant applications, applicants must meet all CRC criteria as well as have already obtained a conditional license.

According to the NJEDA website, the most recent application window was so popular that by Dec. 1, new applicants were placed on a waitlist. “Based on significant interest in the Cannabis Equity—Seed Equity Grant, the NJEDA has already received applications up to or exceeding the amount of funding available under this program,” the agency posted on its website. “All submitted applications that are received at this time will be placed on a waitlist and will be reviewed if the NJEDA can determine there is funding available to support the application.”

Recently in October, NJEDA announced $12 million in funds for 48 cannabis business applicants ($250,000 each), describing the round as one of the largest social equity grants of its kind in the U.S. Gov. Phil Murphy spoke about how essential it is to invest in social equity applicants. “As the cannabis industry continues to reach new heights in New Jersey, it is important that we build on our efforts to support the businesses seeking to enter and grow within this emerging market. The Cannabis Equity Grant Program allows us to simultaneously expand the pool of cannabis businesses in our state while also focusing on those communities most impacted by the unethical War on Drugs,” said Murphy. “As we work to create a stronger, fairer, and more equitable cannabis market, our Administration will continue to increase access and opportunity to the small businesses entering the industry.”

Also in October, Murphy and Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin announced that $5.5 million in cannabis tax funds would be put toward the New Jersey Hospital-Based Intervention Program. The money comes from the Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Fund, with a goal of support victims of crime through crisis intervention and victim compensation. The $5.5 million will be granted to eligible applicants starting in 2024.

A poll conducted earlier this year in May by Stockton University showed the changing attitudes of cannabis in New Jersey. Out of more than 660 participants, one-third of them said that they’ve used cannabis since it was legalized. Forty-four percent said that they used cannabis for recreational purposes, while 39% said it was for both medical and recreational purposes, and only 13% said they tried cannabis for medical consumption only.

The poll showed that 69% of consumers purchased their cannabis products through a legal dispensary, and 86% of them said that they were “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the experience. However, with the state having some of the highest cannabis prices in the country, only 7% of participants said that they approve of current cannabis prices.


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