By Eric Altstadter
On April 20, 2023, in recognition of National Cannabis Awareness Month, the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA) will open applications for its Cannabis Equity Grant Program.
This marks the first phase of the $10 million dollar program, the Joint Ventures Grant, which is set to provide eligible cannabis startups with up to $250,000 in funding. The goal of the Cannabis Equity Grant Program is providing equitable access to the industry, by supporting and incentivizing growth for recreational cannabis businesses in communities adversely impacted by the War on Drugs.
The Phase I program will allocate $6 million in funding to 24 applicants who have demonstrated technical expertise but are experiencing cost and capital issues associated with conversion of their conditional license to an annual one. Funds will be dispersed in two rounds, with $100,000 being provided upon execution of the agreement, and $150,000 being allocated upon the approval for their annual license conversion.
To be eligible for the grant, applicants’ businesses must have been formed prior to March 9, 2020, employ 50 or fewer full-time employees, own a conditional commercial license, and control their operational real estate, as well as have municipal approval for business.
Those approved for the grant can use it to cover various expenses, including:
Rent and Mortgage Payments
In accordance with the program’s goals, 40% of Phase I funds are available exclusively to applicants who have previous cannabis convictions or live in economically challenged communities. An additional 5% of funding is made available for business operations located in Impact Zones, which are identified by the NJEDA based on levels of cannabis arrests, population, unemployment rates, and various socioeconomic factors.
Phase I applications will open at 10:00 AM EST on Thursday, April 20, 2023, on the NJEDA’s website. The organization also provides prospective applicants with an eligibility assessment tool, to assist with verifying if a business meets the grant’s requirements. The $1,000 application fee may be waived for those applicants from economically disadvantaged areas. All applicants who do not qualify will be connected to training and other programmatic resources.
Applicants who are not eligible may qualify for Phase II, the Seed Equity Grant, which is a $150,000 program set to launch later this year. The program will be targeted toward those that meet its social equity criteria but have not yet secured real estate or municipal approval and need assistance with converting their conditional commercial license to an annual one.