The Assembly Health Committee advanced a bill loosening ownership restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries in a 10-2 vote Wednesday.
Existing law allows individuals and businesses to hold only a single marijuana cultivation, manufacturing or dispensary permit.
The bipartisan bill, sponsored by Assemblywoman Verlina Reynolds Jackson (D-Trenton) and Assemblyman Brian Bergen (R-Denville), would allow investors to hold a stake of up to 35% in up to seven medical marijuana businesses so long as they’re owned by minorities, women or disabled veterans.
“Lack of access to capital is one of the biggest barriers women, minority and disabled veteran entrepreneurs face when trying to become business owners,” Reynolds Jackson and Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Roselle), another sponsor, said. “Lower wages mean these individuals generally have fewer personal savings or opportunities to borrow external funds. In fact, the vast majority of startups backed by investors are overwhelmingly white and male-owned.”
The investor must also provide sizeable technical or financial assistance during the license application process.
License holders would have to repay any financial assistance received from an investor, though they would continue to keep their ownership if the loans went into default.
“Only people with a lot of money could open up one of these dispensaries. It’s just not possible unless you have a lot of money in the bank,” Bergen said. “Starting a business is near impossible nowadays. This bill allows entrepreneurs to come into this fresh new industry and gives them a shot.”