The NJ State Bar Association held a virtual cannabis conference with presentations from some of the state’s leading cannabis lawyers for lawyers and cannabis license applicants.
Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), who sold his in stock in Garden State Dispensary, now owned by Ayr Dispensary, addressed the crowd. He noted his late father was a patient in the medical marijuana program.
He said he was not speaking in a legislative capacity but rather as CEO of half a dozen large cannabis companies over the last ten years counseling cannabis clients and authoring applications elsewhere.
Mukherji pointed how lucrative legalization can be for lawyers yet risky for entrepreneurs.
“You should always be planning for the exit,” he advised prospective entrepreneurs.
He noted there are many pitfalls for businesspeople in the volatile industry.
Mukherji noted that underground entrepreneurs and Wall Street executives entering the business would inevitably have some conflict based on the different mindsets.
He noted that while cannabis companies cannot be publicly traded on the Nasdaq, they can be listed on the OTC market and Canadian Stock markets. A lot of companies are specifically listed on the Canadian Stock Exchange (CSE).
A mini Request for Applications (RFA) on the municipal level Mukherji said is common in other states and likely to be expected here.
Friendships with local officials will be key to getting an advantage in whatever process is used. Becoming involved in the local political party is the best way to do that. The best lobbyists are well-connected to party officials since they are involved in many political campaigns volunteering, working, and donating.
Strategizing for Cannabis License Applicants
Most experts agreed that securing a physical location for a cannabis application was the most difficult and possibly most expensive aspect of the application.
Sarah Trent of Valley Wellness, who wants a dispensary and leads a cannabis education course, noted that with micro-business, 51 percent of the owners have to live in the town or a directly neighboring town where they wish to have their business. She noted the League of Municipalities put out a sample cannabis ban they can put in place.
Micro-businesses can only get a license in the town where they live or an adjoining town. Thus larger companies will have an easier time applying in towns where entrepreneurs don’t live but have space for a cannabis dispensary in an industrial park away from schools and churches in more suburban towns.
While some towns would welcome a dispensary, they might not have a location where a dispensary could go. Since it needs to be away from a school, a business district, industrial district, or otherwise abandoned part of town might be the best place for a dispensary.
“There really is limited real estate,” Lee Vartan of the law firm CSG said. He noted a cannabis company has to be 1,000 ft. from a school.
High-end politically connected lawyers are making the best of the Green Rush in New Jersey so far with the complicated laws and regulations they get paid to explain to entrepreneurs. They have the best pickaxes to get the gold from the green.