New Jersey legalized recreational cannabis in February 2021, with the goal of creating a more equitable legal cannabis market. However, there is a lack of new minority owned adult-use recreational dispensaries opening in the state.
As of August 2023, there are only two minority-owned adult-use recreational dispensaries open in New Jersey. This is despite the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJ-CRC) awarding 98 annual licenses for cultivation, manufacturing, retail, and microbusinesses.
One of the applicants still struggling to convert and open as an adult-use dispensary is Scarlet Reserve, a minority women-owned CBD dispensary in Matawan, NJ. Scarlet Reserve has been approved for a conditional license, but they have been unable to open due to a number of challenges, including:
- The high cost of licensing: The cost of licensing a cannabis business in New Jersey is very high, which has made it difficult for some businesses to get started. Minority-owned businesses are often at a disadvantage when it comes to raising capital, which makes it even more difficult for them to afford the cost of licensing.
- The lack of support from municipalities: Not all municipalities in New Jersey have opted to allow dispensaries. This has made it difficult for Scarlet Reserve to find a location for their dispensary. In addition, some municipalities have imposed additional restrictions on dispensaries, which has made it even more difficult for minority-owned businesses to operate in these areas.
The legalization of recreational cannabis in New Jersey was supposed to be in favor of minority-owned businesses opening and operating dispensaries. However, the challenges that minority-owned businesses face, such as the high cost of licensing and the lack of support from municipalities, have made it increasingly difficult for these businesses to open and operate in the legal cannabis market.
The NJ-CRC and the state of New Jersey need to take steps to address the challenges that minority-owned businesses face and to make it easier for these businesses to start and operate a cannabis business. This includes providing financial assistance to minority-owned businesses, creating mentorship programs, reducing regulatory barriers, and working with municipalities to encourage them to allow dispensaries.
By taking these steps, the NJ-CRC and the state of New Jersey can help to create a more equitable legal cannabis market in New Jersey. This will benefit minority-owned businesses, the economy, and consumers.
Scarlet Reserve is committed to opening as an adult-use dispensary and providing a safe and welcoming environment for all customers. They are working with the NJ-CRC and the state of New Jersey to overcome the challenges they face and to open their doors to the public as soon as possible.