Can this family get a stake in the big marijuana business?
“We just want to try to take that away.”
If approved for what’s called a retail microlicense, the three-generation family – whose members range in age from 31 to 78 – plans to open a roughly 2,500-square-foot store filled with a range of cannabis-based products.
The store has a name, Simple ReLeaf, and a focus: homeopathic remedies. But its location is still unclear, one of many crucial details that are still up in the air as they attempt to gain a foothold in the multi-billion dollar cannabis market.
In an industry dominated by deep-pocketed multistate and international cannabis companies, the hurdles for small business owners are high, especially as the drug remains illegal under federal law. This makes it difficult to borrow money from most banks, open checking or savings accounts tied to a cannabis business, or rent property from landlords who fear the arrangement will violate the terms of federally guaranteed mortgages.
Ms Howard said the owner of a storefront they were considering renting in Plainfield, NJ, which was advertised for $3,500 a month, raised the price to $7,200 after learning the nature of their business. Now they are thinking of buying a property instead.
“If you’re paying that kind of money,” said Ms Howard, 47, “we might as well own.”
Recognizing the challenges faced by small businesses, the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission will issue conditional licenses to groups that have not yet entered into rental or purchase agreements.
A large part of the taxes generated from cannabis sales, as well as so-called social equity excise fees, must also be spent on initiatives deemed by the legislature to address racial and economic injustice in New Jersey.
“I really hope we see positive results,” said Tahir Johnson, who grew up in Trenton, NJ, and is the director of social equity and inclusion for the US Cannabis Council in Washington, a industry coalition push for the federal legalization of marijuana.