Q. What are some of its biggest challenges the state faces in regulating the sale of cannabis?
The biggest challenge is the disconnect between state and federal law—the latter of which still considers cannabis a Schedule I controlled narcotic without any medicinal value. As a result, cannabis markets are exclusively governed by each state and prohibited from crossing state lines in every respect. This includes suppliers, but also cannabis transactions and banking. It is difficult, albeit not impossible, to navigate these hurdles while creating a robust marketplace. It is also mind numbing at times. For example, many states include residency requirements for licensed operators, which are now being deemed a violation of federal law. It’s a law school exam question on acid.
Q. The marijuana market is extremely competitive, and large out-of-state corporations with deep pockets have an advantage. What has the CRC done to help level the playing field for local small businesses to compete?
In an effort to level the playing field for local small businesses and to provide an entry point into the cannabis market for New Jersey residents, the CRC has created the “microbusiness” license, which can be obtained by an entity whose ownership is exclusively made up of New Jersey residents. Additionally, the CRC created the “conditional license,” which is a type of license to allow local, non-experienced and not hugely capitalized players to have entry into the cannabis market, and attempts to offer licenses to groups of people who may have relatively lower incomes and cannot immediately demonstrate that they meet all of the conditions of licensure for a full license. Both these license types will be prioritized in the review, scoring and approval process, along with minority and/or women business enterprise applicants.