Black entrepreneurs are outraged that New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) has not awarded any cannabis licenses to any of the state’s Black entrepreneurs.

Advocates with the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey (AACCNJ) say based on their conversations, out of the 56 licenses awarded to date, none has been awarded to a Black-owned business, and people want answers.

“Many Black-owned businesses have been trying to get into the cannabis industry since 2012 when cannabis for medicinal purposes became legal in New Jersey,” said AACCNJ President and CEO John E. Harmon Sr.

“No Black-owned business received a license back then, and none has received a license since the legalization of cannabis for recreational use thus far. It’s a costly proposition for Black license applicants to wait indefinitely while the CRC drags its feet in awarding licenses.”

Harmon is referring to the CRC’s requirement that license applicants maintain site control while the CRC considers their applications. In other words, applicants must have legal access to and control of the real estate at which their businesses will be operated.

Many applicants are hit with mounting monthly lease payments which cannot be deducted as a business expense. Since the United States federal government does not recognize cannabis as a legal industry, expenses incurred in connection with cannabis activity cannot be deducted as a legitimate business expense.

“The CRC needs to expedite its review and award of the licenses submitted. Minimally, the CRC must immediately score and notify applicants of their conditional status,” said Harmon. “If necessary, additional resources must be allocated to the license review process so that applicants cease to be adversely impacted financially by an unjustifiably protracted process.”

Congressman Donald Payne Jr. said marijuana has been legal in the state since 2012. Last year, New Jersey legalized marijuana for recreational use and allowed the creation of cannabis stores and shops. In the 10 years of legalization, not one Black-owned cannabis business has been granted a license, according to the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.

“I am outraged to hear that Black-owned businesses have been shut out of the state’s cannabis marketplace,” said Payne Jr. “Black users are four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white users, even though overall use for both groups is almost the same. New Jersey has a chance to correct this inequality and allow people abused by the system to finally benefit from it with a fair distribution of cannabis business licenses.”

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