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  • Brandon Cantarella

2022 Was the Year a Generation of Cannabis Entrepreneurs Were Created in NJ

What a year it has been for New Jersey's cannabis industry. History was made in 2022 through the culmination of years of dedicated advocacy, with numerous milestones reached.

In one of the country’s most eagerly anticipated cannabis developments, the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) approved the launch of personal-use recreational cannabis sales on April 21. Even before legal sales occurred, the CRC began awarding conditional licenses to social equity-applicant owned, women-owned, minority-owned and disabled veteran-owned businesses throughout the state.

On March 24, 68 businesses received CRC approval to build cultivation, manufacturing and retail facilities here in the Garden State, with 1,200 more gaining approval throughout the course of the year. These recently approved operators represent the next generation of cannabis entrepreneurs in our state. They will be the face of equity and opportunity in the industry!

This expanded industry that activists, regulators, operators and hopeful entrepreneurs have been fighting for made significant tangible progress over the past year. However, the work is far from done.

No Disruptions to Medicinal Cannabis Program

In the months prior to sales commencing, the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA) adamantly stated that our members would be able to successfully address the increase in demand without disruption to the product supply line available to patients enrolled in our state’s medicinal cannabis program.

To the delight of patients, 2022 witnessed a major expansion of access to safe and effective medicinal cannabis, with 31 dispensaries now serving patients across New Jersey. This is an increase of over 50% compared to 2021 that proudly included NJCTA members MPX NJ (Atlantic City), Breakwater Treatment & Wellness (Cranbury and Roselle Park), Bloc/Justice Cannabis Co. (Ewing and Somerset) and Valley Wellness (Raritan), with the opening of their dispensaries this year.

Additionally, member Hillview Med (Lincoln Park) commenced operations at their cultivation facility, in record time, and their products will start to hit medicinal dispensary shelves early in 2023!

Our Association’s members have been steadfast in our commitment to patients since sales in the New Jersey’s Medicinal Marijuana Program began almost 10 years ago. We will continue to make patients a priority as the overall marketplace continues to grow, and we look forward to continuing to meet regularly with the Coalition for Medical Marijuana - New Jersey to ensure the needs of the state’s medicinal cannabis community are being met.

Affordability & Other Barriers

We know how important affordability is to both patients and consumers. We are optimistic that cannabis prices will become more affordable, thereby discouraging purchases of unregulated cannabis products from the illicit market, which has been clearly identified as posing a risk to public health.

Our optimism stems from legislation currently being considered on the state level that addresses Section 280E of the state’s tax code. This reform would alleviate the financial strains currently placed on industry operators. Section 280E of the IRS Tax Code was enacted by the Reagan administration and prohibits drug traffickers from deducting their expenses. By decoupling 280E from the state’s tax code, operators will be able to deduct common business expenses from their taxes, allowing for lower product costs to be passed along to consumers while simultaneously increasing profitability for operators. Higher profitability allows for more hiring and the reinvestment of funds into operations and the surrounding communities.

As mentioned earlier, the legal cannabis marketplace is destined to experience substantial growth in 2023 with over 1,200 conditional licenses having been awarded by the CRC this year. However, significant barriers must be removed, including access to capital, real estate and municipal approvals. These barriers pose a host of problems and are keeping the next generation of entrepreneurs from realizing their dreams of entering the industry.

Commitment to Social Equity

Our Association displayed its unwavering commitment to social equity throughout the year as reflected by our numerous sponsorships of expungement clinics, job fairs, and patient sign up events. The NJCTA were sponsors of Stockton University’s Cannabis Career Fair and Business Expo; 40 Tons, Brand Resumes and Black Cannabis’ “Canna Get a 2nd Chance” Career Conference; Roll Up Life’s “High Mom: A Celebration of Motherhood and Cannabis” event; and 420NJEvents’ “Health is Wealth” webinar. We also continued our scholarship offerings with NJ Cannabis Certified’s workforce training program at Mercer County Community College.

Additionally, we launched our social equity-driven “Business Builder Series," which allows experts to share invaluable cannabis industry insights and best practices with aspiring entrepreneurs and applicants. Our Association’s members look forward to engaging and working collaboratively with all industry stakeholders, including the CRC, in the coming year to continue the effort toward achieving greater social equity in our industry.

While 2022 was historic for New Jersey’s cannabis industry, we believe 2023 will prove that the best is yet to come. The NJCTA looks forward to continuing our efforts to build a strong industry foundation from which the current and upcoming generation of cannabis entrepreneurs can be successful and ensure New Jersey’s cannabis industry realizes its full potential.

Todd Johnson is the executive director of the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA), which is comprised of the state’s permitted medical and adult-use cannabis operators with the shared mission to ensure the legal cannabis marketplace is not only safe, accessible and affordable, but also equitable and just.

Todd is also a co-founder of Community Greenhouse, a mission-driven cannabis company that was recently awarded a conditional license to operate a retail dispensary in New Jersey.

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