Economic Development

New Cannabis Grant Program Launched

Funding to help new businesses in the cannabis industry with start-up expenses

The New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) has announced the creation of the Cannabis Equity Grant Program, aimed at helping start-ups in the cannabis industry with assistance for early-stage expenses and technical training. Up to $10 million in state funding will be made available for applicants.

Following the 2020 referendum legalizing adult-use recreational marijuana in New Jersey and the 2021 legislation establishing the framework for regulated growth and sales, Gov. Phil Murphy signed legislation in June 2022 allowing the NJEDA to offer qualifying small businesses licensed in the cannabis industry to pursue assistance.

“My administration is doubling its efforts to cultivate small businesses in burgeoning industries with massive untapped potential,” said Gov. Phil Murphy. “The establishment of the Cannabis Equity Grant Program will help aspiring small business owners meet start-up expenses in a pivotal sector within our state’s ever-growing economy. Most importantly, the program will erode considerable barriers to access for communities of color, which this program will help to equip with the resources they need to not just enter, but thrive, in this exciting new industry.”

$10 million will be made available in the initial pilot program. 60% of that amount will be made available to qualifying social equity applicants, like those who have previous cannabis convictions or live in economically disadvantaged areas. Economically disadvantaged areas are defined by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) as zip codes that meet certain socioeconomic criteria. These businesses can receive up to $250,000 to help with certain start-up expenses such as regulatory fees, rental expenses, utilities, and wages. Qualifications for these businesses include holding a conditional cannabis license, business formation after March 2020, and employing 50 or fewer employees. Grantees will also participate in technical assistance and business education courses, provided by the Authority.

The remaining 40% of the initial pilot will be open to all entities who have secured municipal approval and site control over their business’s real estate. Applicants with conditional licenses and existing approvals can receive up to $250,000 in grant support for eligible expenses.

Tied to the legislation signed earlier this year are the allocations for Impact Zones, which are areas targeted based on previous levels of marijuana arrests, population, unemployment rates, and additional socioeconomic factors. 5% of the total $10 million will be reserved for businesses located in Impact Zones.

“Under Gov. Murphy’s leadership, New Jersey is committed to building a thriving and inclusive cannabis sector that maximizes opportunities for underserved communities and people impacted by the War on Drugs, and this program is a major step toward that goal,” said NJEDA Chief Executive Officer Tim Sullivan. “We look forward to continuing to partner with the Cannabis Regulatory Commission to advance additional programs to support entrepreneurs in this rapidly developing sector.”

“The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission has from the beginning understood that if we want New Jersey’s cannabis market to reflect the diversity of its residents, and if we want to ensure that it is inclusive of groups that bear the scars of prohibition, then designated access to capital would be essential for some applicants,” said New Jersey CRC Chairwoman Dianna Houenou. “We have been working with several partners in and outside of state government to identify sources of the capital cannabis entrepreneurs need. We are grateful that the NJEDA is stepping up to meet some of that need. I am thrilled to see this program become a reality and I look forward to seeing its substantive impact leading to cannabis entrepreneurs opening for business.”

To further encourage participants in economically disadvantaged areas, the application fee of $1,000 for those in these locations may be waived. The applications window will stay open for 180 days following the Grant Program’s launch.

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