NJEDA launches Cannabis Grant Program to help new businesses with startup expenses

Up to $10 million in state funding will be made available for startups in New Jersey looking for assistance with early-stage expenses and technical training in the cannabis industry.

Through the Cannabis Equity Grant Program from the New Jersey Economic Development Authority, funding will be made available in the initial pilot program. Sixty percent 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.

These businesses can receive up to $250,000 to help with certain startup expenses like 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.

“My administration is doubling its efforts to cultivate small businesses in burgeoning industries with massive untapped potential,” Gov. Phil Murphy said. “The establishment of the Cannabis Equity Grant Program will help aspiring small business owners meet startup 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.”

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

“I am in full support of funding the Cannabis Equity Grant Program to help private entities create business startups in New Jersey,” Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver said. “The Murphy administration fought for the legalization of cannabis because of our commitment to social justice issues. Our administration will continue working to grow a cannabis industry that reflects the diversity of our state, protects access for medical marijuana patients, prioritizes justice and promotes equal opportunities for communities of color.”

“This program can have a positive impact by supporting diversity in New Jersey’s cannabis industry during its formative stages. As the market continues its successful growth, these grants will help provide more opportunities to a greater number of operators in a larger number of communities to participate,” said Senate President Nicholas Scutari (D-Linden).

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. Five percent of the total $10 million will be reserved for businesses located in Impact Zones.

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.