Small business owners looking to get into marijuana industry feel left out in the cold

Most of the locations that will be selling legal recreational marijuana in New Jersey on Thursday are owned by large corporations.
But when lawmakers worked out the legal cannabis industry, small business owners were promised opportunities. But many of these small business owners say that they are now hitting a financial wall.
Those applicants say that they are running into roadblocks at the city and township levels. They say that they must pay thousands of dollars just to apply for licenses to set up shop, even though they have already been deemed as economically disadvantaged by the Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
“Even with them saying that it is for us, and it is for us to come out and above like everyone one else, we’re hitting a lot of walls moneywise,” says entrepreneur Linda Solana.
Solana isn't a novice in running a business. She's owned and operated K9Nanni, a dog day care and boarding facility in North Arlington, for 20 years. But now she wants to put her business expertise to use in the adult recreational marijuana market in the form of a microbusiness.
"It's for people that don't have all this money to invest into these big dispensaries and they're giving us a chance by opening up this little place where, it could be a change in a lot of these people's lives,” Solana says.
But Solana says cities and towns that have opted into recreational sales are charging applicants a lot of money when they are already financially strapped.
“It’s very sad that they won’t even give the microbusinesses just a little bit of leeway aside from everybody else,” she says.
The Cannabis Regulatory Commission designated 55 zip codes as economically disadvantaged based on income, to ensure social equity and diversity were factors in the application selection process. Applicants from those zip codes are prioritized, however, that priority isn't recognized by municipalities forcing applicants to figure out a way to pay thousands in fees.
"We definitely need our Legislature and our governor to do more as far as expanding access for social equity and especially when it comes to funding,” says Chirali Patel, of Blaze Law Firm LLC. “Because these businesses need funding ultimately to be successful."
And on top of the strain of having to come up with the money for the fees, applicants who were awarded licenses will also have less than five months to secure a location. Solana says that zoning restrictions are making that process difficult as well.