Minority entrepreneurs get boost for major N.J. cannabis industry event

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New Jersey’s cannabis business community is eager to roll up its sleeves and get to work now that laws are in place and the regulatory body to govern it has been seated. And while many business questions abound as to how the marketplace will unfurl, how the state’s social equity provisions will take shape continues to be at the heart of much of the conversation.

New Jersey is among a handful of states that recently legalized cannabis and made social equity a core requirement of market rollout.

 

For Dianna Houenou, who was appointed by Gov. Phil Murphy to chair the five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission, a priority is making sure the barriers of entry to participate in the cannabis market are lowered to make it more equitable.

 

“That it is a meaningful opportunity to people no matter what you look like or which part of the state you come from,” Houenou told NJ Cannabis Insider in November. “That will require a holistic understanding of why certain people might not have access to entering the market and devising ways that are specifically tailored to tackling those barriers.”

 

Application fees, high startup costs and capital requirements as well as nuance in compliance and tax structures have been the key factors in keeping out the very people who were most harmed by the War on Drugs, say social equity advocates.

 
 

According to the law, while cultivation licenses are capped at 37 for the initial first two years, the limit doesn’t apply to licenses awarded to micro-businesses — firms of 10 employees or less and 2,500 square feet of growing space. Once it’s up and running, the regulatory commission will establish the maximum number of licenses based on market demand. A third of the licenses are set aside to equity applicants: 15% to businesses owned by minorities and 15% to women or disabled veterans.

 

For its March 9-10 virtual industry conference, featuring state Sen. Troy Singleton, NBA veteran-turned-cannabis entrepreneur Al Harrington, Houenou among many others, NJ Cannabis Insider partnered with Harvest360 to support qualified equity applicants to improve their chances of entering and succeeding in New Jersey’s cannabis space.

“This all about reducing the barriers of entry. Networking, building teams and educating is critical,” said Jersey City-native David Serrano, who with fellow veterans co-founded Harvest360, a cannabis consulting company specializing in the intersection of research and development and technological applications within the cannabis space. “We want to make sure social-equity applicants have everything they need to succeed in the space.”

 

Eligible teams will get access to industry-leading content and networking events through an annual subscription to NJ Cannabis Insider, free tickets to the March event and the next NJ Cannabis Insider networking event.

 

All applicants will receive an invitation to a free one-on-one coaching session with industry leaders. Harvest360′s executive team will look for business feasibility, sincerity and professionalism in the responses, said Serrano, whose team recently rolled out a social equity accelerator platform in Illinois.

 

To apply to the program, fill out this form. The deadline to apply is by Saturday, March 6, at midnight. Winners will be announced on Monday.

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