A virtual webinar on the industry’s nuances for cannabis entrepreneurs was held last night by the Jersey City Tech Meet-up.
The speakers included noted attorney Jessica Gonzalez, Mike Zaytsev of High NY, Ken Starlin, a growing and marketing consultant, and Teresa Kearney of Panacea Payroll.
It was moderated by Ben Yurcisin, who runs the group. While tech-centered, they often touch on cannabis.
“It is extremely exciting,” he said regarding New Jersey’s pending legalization.
Jersey City is likely to be a hotbed of the industry for cannabis entrepreneurs. Mayor Steve Fulop and municipal prosecutor Jake Hudnut both endorsed legalization and welcome dispensaries to the city.
Tips for Cannabis Entrepreneurs
Cannabis entrepreneur Chelsea Duffy explained she first applied in 2019 and planned to apply again. Duffy said potential applicants should get funding and assemble a team before the next round is announced.
A labor-peace agreement is also important for applicants to obtain as is certification as a minority-owned business for those who are eligible.
Kearney said it is very hard to find a bank to accept cannabis businesses.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken a panicked phone call,” she said from clients who have issues with banking and payroll.
They noted that while enjoyable, it takes a lot of work to get a business off the ground and running, especially if it’s plant-touching.
“This is one of the hardest things you could do,” said Yurcisin. “So, you have to get your head in the right place.”
Jersey City Tech Meet-up Insight
Starlin said many formerly underground cannabis entrepreneurs don’t know how to run a legal business.
Kearney noted that she has similar clients who used to be underground and don’t understand the nuances of being legal cannabis entrepreneurs. Compliance can be very difficult for them.
“It’s not about if you’re going to be audited. It’s when,” she said.
Kearney noted cannabis entrepreneurs experienced in running a legal business tend to be more successful. Zaytsev said those who understand how to run a business but not cannabis often have serious issues as well.
There’s a learning curve,” Yurcisin said.
Stoners and Suits Unite
Starlin said a combination of the old stoner and the corporate type is ideal in a business.
“That’s where the magic happens,” Kearney added.
Gonzalez said most of what will be required by cannabis entrepreneurs to apply is likely already included in S. 21.
“It lays out exactly what they’re looking for,” she said.
“This is one of the most competitive and regulated industries,” Zaytsev noted. “It’s so much more complicated than any other industry.”
“It’s not for everyone,” he said regarding plant-touching businesses.
A lawyer named Matt Miller recommended getting into an ancillary business or hemp, which is much easier. The glass industry, which makes pipes and bongs, is not regulated, but rolling papers are.
Kearney said cannabis entrepreneurs should focus on what they know. For example, someone with a retail background should focus on retails. Many lauded experts have said the same.
“It’s worth every headache,” said Starlin.
It was also noted that social media platforms often shut down cannabis-related accounts.
Duffy said it’s important for cannabis entrepreneurs to lobby all government levels, so they should get to know officials. That helps when seeking approval to open a dispensary in a town.
“Everything is about networking and who you know,” said Adam Callen of Roots Affects.
He noted he spent a year and a half building relationships with officials in Puerto Rico to obtain one of their first medical licenses.
“Jersey is a really tight place, if you know what I mean,” Callen said.
He said this often happens because officials are thinking, “If I give a license, are you going to fuck it up, and they’re going to arrest me?”
Callen noted there has been a great deal of corruption in Missouri’s medical cannabis industry have been arrested.
Legalization and Advocacy
“It’s a shit show right now,” Gonzalez said regarding the state of legalization in New Jersey.
“We were really lucky in Oklahoma because we got the best bill in the world,” Starlin said. “None of these markets on the East Coast have been easy to get up and running.”
The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission also has to be fully seated. They have to be confirmed, and then set up the regulations for the market.
Medical dispensaries will be allowed to sell adult-use cannabis once they have a sufficient supply for patients. However, they currently do not “by any stretch of the imagination,” Gonzalez said.
“The constitution changes on Jan. 1st, and we have no idea what it’s going to look like,” she added.