Most of the places that will sell legal recreational marijuana in New Jersey on Thursday are owned by large corporations.
But when lawmakers crafted the legal cannabis industry, small business owners were promised opportunities. But many of these small business owners say they are now hitting a financial wall.
These claimants say they face roadblocks at the city and township level. They say they have to pay thousands of dollars just to apply for licenses to set up shop, even though they have already been deemed economically disadvantaged by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
“Even though they say it’s for us, and it’s up to us to go out and above like everyone else, we hit a lot of walls in terms of money,” says entrepreneur Linda Solana.
Solana is not new to running a business. She has owned and operated K9Nanni, a dog daycare and boarding facility in North Arlington, for 20 years. But now she wants to put her business expertise to use in the adult recreational marijuana market in the form of a micro-enterprise.
“It’s for people who don’t have all that money to invest in these big dispensaries and they’re giving us a chance by opening this little place where it could change the lives of a lot of these people,” Solana says. .
But Solana says cities and towns that have opted for recreational sales are charging applicants a lot of money when they’re already cash-strapped.
“It’s very sad that they don’t even give micro businesses a little leeway over everyone else,” she says.
The Cannabis Regulatory Commission designated 55 zip codes as economically disadvantaged based on income, to ensure that social equity and diversity were factors in the candidate selection process. Applicants from these postcodes are given priority, however, this priority is not recognized by municipalities, forcing applicants to find a way to pay thousands in fees.
“We definitely need our legislature and our governor to do more when it comes to expanding access to social equity and especially when it comes to funding,” says Chirali Patel, of Blaze Law Firm LLC. “Because these companies need funding to be successful.”
And in addition to having to find the money for the fees, applicants who have obtained licenses will also have less than five months to obtain a location. Solana says zoning restrictions also make this process difficult.