Minority entrepreneurs say they are struggling to get into the new legal marijuana business in NJ
Entrepreneurs have been preparing for the day marijuana became legal in New Jersey for over a year. But now some are running into roadblocks getting their businesses going.
The old Reingold Beer warehouse in Orange has sat partially empty. But some local entrepreneurs have plans to change that while simultaneously knocking down the barriers that minorities are facing trying to occupy space in the cannabis industry.
Imagine paying $20,000 in rent before physically occupying a space. That is what the entrepreneurs are facing. Part of the process for applying for marijuana sales licenses is getting authorization from the town and securing a physical location. They say that they want the state to reconsider these terms.
“In the search for real estate, we were fortunate to find this building and we got the endorsement from the town. But it took a lot of time and effort and money to do that. We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars so far in the process,” says 93 ID founder Travis Ally.
Ally is a military veteran. His business partner Levi Holmes is a retired Newark police lieutenant. They are planning on turning the 125,000-square-foot warehouse into a “cannabusiness.” However, they hit a roadblock in the form of a lawsuit against the state from fellow applicants over a year ago. And they are still waiting.
“We were able to submit a successful application. It’s a complicated and complex journey. There’s a lot of cut-throat things along the way. But we’re here and we’re still in the running,” Ally says.
The Black-owned 93 ID gives a nod to the 93rd Infantry Division of the Armed Forces, where Black men and women served before the Army was integrated.
“I want to pay homage to my ancestors and the folks who came before me,” Ally says.
Equity has been at the forefront of the newly legal cannabis industry. But minorities in the field say that they are still facing high barriers of entry, partially because of a lack of access.
“If you say 15% of the licenses are for minority entrepreneurs, but those minority entrepreneurs can’t raise the capital that they need or the application team is a little bit too comprehensive. You need doctors, you need growers, you need all these individual team members that minorities may not have access to - those people may not be in their networks. It’s still very, very difficult to get a license,” says Ty Griffith, co-founder of another cannabis business named Brwnbox.
The co-founders of 93 ID say that they can’t start construction on the site until they get their license. They hope that it is awarded by the end of the month. Then they can submit plans to the city.
Another wrinkle in the plan is that the city of Orange also has a proposed ordinance to block pot sales in the city. This ordinance will be voted on later this month.