A cannabis flower at Glass House Farms in Carpinteria, Calif., is almost ready for harvest. This farm uses greenhouses, allowing for five harvests a year. Claire Heddles/NPR

Trenton, New Jersey.-By Christi Peace

Aiming to counteract potential barriers to ownership of medical cannabis dispensaries and other types of alternative treatment centers by minority and women entrepreneurs in New Jersey, legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Verlina Reynolds-Jackson and Jamel Holley was signed into law Thursday to revise certain restrictions on these businesses. 

Current law prevents any entity from holding more than one permit for a medical cannabis cultivator, manufacturer or dispensary. Under this new law (formerly bill A-5179/S-2875), investors who significantly assist someone applying for a medical cannabis dispensary permit will be allowed to hold up to 35 percent interest in up to seven medical cannabis dispensaries – provided those businesses are minority, woman or disabled veteran-owned.

Business owners will be required to pay back the financial assistance they receive from an investor within a period of time determined by a sliding scale system based on the size of the loan. The law specifies that ownership will not revert to the investor if the business were to default.

The Cannabis Regulatory Commission will also be permitted to review the agreement between the business owner and investor to ensure the terms are commercially reasonable and consistent with fair market value. 

Assembly members Reynolds-Jackson (D-Mercer, Hunterdon) and Holley (D-Union) issued the following joint statement:

“Lack of access to capital is one of the biggest barriers women, minority and disabled veteran entrepreneurs face when trying to become business owners. Lower wages mean these individuals generally have fewer personal savings or opportunities to borrow external funds. In fact, the vast majority of startups backed by investors are overwhelmingly white and male-owned.

“As the medical cannabis industry grows in New Jersey, we need to ensure equal opportunities for involvement in these businesses. By allowing investors to have partial ownership of more than one medical cannabis dispensary, if those businesses are minority or women-owned, we will incentivize them to invest in more diverse ventures.

“Minorities have historically been disproportionately impacted our country’s ‘war on drugs.’ It is only fair they have the opportunity to benefit from this substance’s legitimization as the medical cannabis industry advances.”