The Canna One Expo NJ cannabis conference focused on Business 2 Business (B2B) issues like access to capital was held in the Edison Expo Center in the Raritan Center.
A panel called “CannaCulture: Partnerships in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion” moderated by Canna Coverage CEO and NJ Co-Director of Minorities 4 Medical Marijuana (M4MM) Nichelle Santos featured NJ Economic Development Authority (EDA) Senior Program Manager Genieve Jones, Trenton Law Director Wes Bridges, Pure Genesis CEO Faye Coleman, and cannabis and psilocybin entrepreneur co-director of NJ M4MM Gaetano Lardieri.
“We’re listening to the municipalities so we can design a grant program and assistance program that can help people who are, people with conditional licenses, help to get them to the actual license,” Jones said.
They are eager to help those hurt by the War on Drugs, such as Social Equity and minority and women-owned businesses, succeed.
“We see this as a growth industry to promote equitable entrepreneurship,” she explained.
However, Jones acknowledged they are moving slowly due to the nature of government bureaucracy and red tape.
“We do have to go to our board to get permission. We expect to do that in December. “Sometime next year, we expect to be able to offer those assistance programs,” she said.
“There’s been extensions by the CRC (NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission). We are moving as fast as possible. We are still a state agency and can’t just, you know, give out the money,” Jones said about the delay.
Many New Jersey cannabis conditional license winners will likely fail to convert due to a lack of money and local approval. Most cannabis policy and industry experts expect less than 50 percent to survive long enough to open their doors.
“The cannabis grant program will be, we will reimburse people who have already spent the money and who qualify for the grant. We will reimburse for those expenses,” Jones said.
Santos said Adrian Adams of NY M4MM could help with money as well.
“We want to help individuals who have been hurt by the War on Drugs,” Jones said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to create generational wealth.”
“Folks are nervous. Folks are unsure what’s going on,” Bridges said about the cannabis legalization process on the local level.
Access to Capital Issue
“It’s capital. The stain on this industry is the lack of intentional investment in minorities,” Coleman declared.
She noted issues with being a black woman and the challenges it brings to being an entrepreneur. Coleman noted many minority businesswomen lack access to capital in general.
“There’s red lining. We have communities which are not marrying the cannabis companies coming into them,” Coleman noted.
Santos lamented that African Americans own less than two percent of licensed cannabis companies.
“We have our real estate. We have our approval,” Coleman said, noting they will be based in Atlantic City.
Bridges explained that Mayor Reid Gusciora, who is up for re-election next month, is eager to see Trenton emerge as a cannabis hub as it partners with colleges and other organizations in the space.
As an Assemblyman, Guisiora was a longtime champion of cannabis reform.
He stressed there would be many opportunities in the cannabis industry in Trenton.
Coleman noted that large cannabis corporations that are Multi-State Operators (MSOs) make promises to get local approval that involve helping the community, but they often don’t come through.
She noted a negative consequence of federal cannabis legalization could be that it enables large cannabis companies to grow bigger and buy out or put out of business their smaller competitors.
“Once it goes federal, we know you’ll be put up or shut out,” Coleman said.
“United we stand,” Santos said.
“If it were up to me, I’d deschedule all of them,” Lardieri said about the news of progress on cannabis reclassification.
Canna One Expo NJ Cannabis Conference Focused on B2B
NJ Canna Business Association (NJCBA) President Ed De Veaux gave the keynote speech at the NJ cannabis conference.
“The cannabis sector will be no different than any other sector of the economy,” he declared.
“Access to capital is a huge issue,” De Veaux said. “People struggling would have a struggle with access to capital in the first place.”
“Business acumen is important,” he explained. “The old notion of throwing money at a situation doesn’t always cure it.”
“You need local approval. But many in our cannabis community haven’t been to their town council meeting,” ED explained about the frustration of many entrepreneurs in securing local approval.
De Veaux said Fortune 400 companies would become involved in the cannabis industry as a result.
“That’s the age of normalization,” he said. “The cannabis nation is going to develop, and it’s going to take us time.
“If you’ve never written your Congressman, now is a good time to do it,” he said.
He called for people to advocate for the Safe Banking Act to pass to improve access to capital.
The Canna One Expo was held at the same time as another B2B NJ cannabis conference in Atlantic City focused on technology.
There are many upcoming NJ cannabis conferences. Next week is the Cannabis Quality Conference from Monday to Wednesday in Parsippany in Morris County, while the Real Cannabis Entrepreneur conference is Friday and Saturday in Newark.