New Jersey announces $10 million ‘cannabis equity’ grant for startup companies

A person kneels down as they trim marijuana plants.

File photo: In this March 22, 2019, file photo, Heather Randazzo, trims marijuana plants at Compassionate Care Foundation's medical marijuana dispensary in Egg Harbor Township, N.J. New Jersey's Cannabis Regulatory Commission approved on Thursday, Aug. 19, 2021, rules to set up the state's recreational marijuana marketplace. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez, File)

Startup companies in New Jersey say the process of opening a cannabis business is challenging, especially in communities negatively impacted by the War on Drugs.

Some feel left out because most weed retailers currently approved by the state are large corporations formed outside New Jersey. They also say it’s harder to secure funding and real estate sometimes due to the stigma around cannabis.

Now, startups can procure some capital after New Jersey announced a $10 million program called the Cannabis Equity Grant.

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority says awardees can use the money for early-stage expenses and technical training.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Out of the $10 million allotted to the program, $6 million will go to social equity applicants — people with prior cannabis convictions and those who live in economically disadvantaged areas as defined by the state.

“New Jersey is committed to building a thriving and inclusive cannabis sector that maximizes opportunities for underserved communities and people impacted by the War on Drugs, and this program is a major step toward that goal,” said NJEDA CEO Tim Sullivan.

Social equity applicants can receive up to $250,000 that goes toward expenses like regulatory fees, rental expenses, utilities, and wages.

The program is open to companies formed after March 2020 with 50 or fewer employees that already hold a conditional cannabis license.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

The NJEDA says it will also waive application fees for applicants in economically disadvantaged areas.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal