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  • Joseph DiDonato

Obtaining a New Jersey License for Retail Sales of Cannabis is a Multifacet Journey

A review of the process to obtain a medical dispensary license for cannabis in New Jersey provides an appreciation of multiple opportunities to improve the chances of success. The following is a summary of positions that are not required by any statute or rule but were taken by successful applicants. Based on an understanding of the process, this is a dynamic situation rather than a stagnant list to achieve success.

Medical Dispensary License

An appreciation of the successful applicants for a medical dispensary license for cannabis in New Jersey provides the required components. Most specifically, successful applicants had four designated positions.

  1. An attorney is required to obtain and establish an understanding of local ordinances etc., establish corporate documents and organization internal management and be in direct contact with the state to address all state regulationsThe attorney will be responsible for central organization of the professional staff to obtain the license and to maintain open communication with colleagues at the New Jersey State Bar Association Cannabis Committee to ensure an appreciation of the most effective procedures and any modifications to application rules and licensing rules.The attorney should be aware of all intellectual property issues surrounding cannabis.

  2. A certified accountant knowledgeable on banking requirements and tax requirements of cannabis based businesses in New Jersey.

  3. A lobbyist to address the licensing board (currently the Department of Health in New Jersey).

  4. A project manager/application writer to prepare and file the application in cooperation with the lobbyist and the attorney. Colleagues on the NJ Bar Cannabis Committee can provide a list of the most effective persons (eg. those whose applications already have obtained licenses) for selection.

Based on the current rules and ethical regulations, each of the professionals listed will not have equity but will be paid on an hourly basis. Upon establishment of the license and business, equity can be an option. Each professional should address and obtain malpractice insurance specifically designed for the cannabis industry.

Further, successful applicants found it imperative to have supporting personnel to achieve an acceptable score on their applications. Such supporting personnel include:

  1. A person with cannabis industry knowledge and experience to be a part of the equity investment group. Colleagues on the NJ Bar Cannabis Committee can provide a list of “cannabis approved state” professionals who currently have been involved in cannabis businesses in other states.

  2. A medical researcher (to support a medical research tie-in). Certain universities have agreed to be consultants to other successful applicants.

  3. Minority owners as applications are reviewed on a point system.

Retail/Recreational License

As the recreational use of marijuana is not legal in many states (including New Jersey) legislation/rules do not exist to obtain such a license. However, the most effective way to obtain a retail license / adult use license for the sale of cannabis may be to obtain first a medical marijuana dispensary license (which is legal in New Jersey) and to convert that license into a retail / adult use license when/if they become available.

Decisions regarding whether a business can have multiple licenses (eg., dispensary and retail) and whether a business can covert a medical dispensary to a retail license have not been established but will be based on state regulations when adopted.


Understanding the current process and procedures for obtaining a dispensary license (and potentially converting it to a recreational license) reveals that this is an ongoing process requiring continued review to establish the most effective and cost efficient ways to enter the cannabis industry.

Photo by Michael Fischer from Pexels.

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