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New Jersey is the Poster Child of the National Racial Inequity of Legal Cannabis Business Ownership

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New Jersey is the Poster Child of the National Racial Inequity of Legal Cannabis Business Ownership

And if you want an accurate barometer of just how the inequities have played out in the open market, you have to go no farther than the state of New Jersey, which hasn’t given one of its 56 cannabis licenses to a black owner. 

In an effort to help solve a longtime state racial disparity in weed arrests, New Jersey voters approved recreational cannabis in a landmark November 2020 ballot question. 

But when New Jersey enacted its Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) to administer licenses, diversity was supposed to be a priority. It wasn’t.  

According to the state’s African American Chamber of Commerce, not one cannabis business license has been awarded. 

“Based on conversations I’ve had, with stakeholders, out of the 56 licenses awarded to date, none has been awarded to a Black-owned business,” African American Chamber founder John Harmon told the West Orange, NJ Patch. “People need to know what’s going on.”  

The CRC disputes the racial disparity accuracy. Its spokesperson, Toni-Anne Blake, said the CRC hadn’t awarded ANY recreational licenses since it began taking applications from cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, and testing labs in December 2021. 

The other issue, according to Harmon, is the CRC requires applicants to maintain site control while its members consider their application, meaning they have to pay lease payments while they wait. 

“It’s a costly proposition for Black license applicants to wait indefinitely while the CRC drags its feet in awarding licenses,” Harmon said.