Cannabis Careers in Emerging Markets: New Jersey

Hannah Holmgren / May 13, 2021
hero-graphic-Cannabis Careers in Emerging Markets: New Jersey

The New Jersey emerging cannabis market is one of the most-talked about in the industry right now. And for very good reason. New Jersey saw its ups and downs in cannabis over the last several years. Because of that tumultuous history, it makes the events of February that much more monumental.

NJ Governor Phil Murphy (D) signed three cannabis-specific bills into law this February. The goal? To legalize and regulate the sale and use of adult-use cannabis.

Even with these bills, you still cannot legally buy or sell adult-use cannabis in the state. We can look to the complexities behind licensing for answers here. What we do know is New Jersey's legalization efforts come with a lot of positives beyond the obvious.

The state is becoming a hot-spot for small companies, multi-state operators, and eager job-seekers alike. Our data found that in 2019, cannabis sales reached $100 million. We're projecting that to grow to the $1.2 billion mark by 2025. And with more sales comes more jobs - 19,000 more by 2025 to be exact.

But where do job-seekers start when it comes to a brand new market like New Jersey? And where can companies find those looking to get in?

Mapping the Change

Medical cannabis legalized in New Jersey in 2010. And thanks to a November 2020 ballot question, voters approved the legalization of adult-use cannabis. The vote, like some of its predecessors, didn't take immediate action to open the market. It did, however, give lawmakers the opportunity to keep moving forward.

The sticking point for those lawmakers? Decriminalization. In a perfect world, cannabis possession wouldn't be a criminal act. Especially for minors.

This is where they netted out for adults (21+):

  • The use or possession of up to six ounces of cannabis is no longer a crime.
  • Being under the influence of cannabis is no longer a crime.
  • Possession of paraphernalia for cannabis is no longer a crime.
  • Possession of cannabis when driving a car is no longer a crime.*

*Driving under the influence is still very much illegal though.

And for those under 21:

  • Caught in public with cannabis will result in a written warning for your first offense.
  • Your second offense will result in a second written warning and information about “how to access community services... that would assist the person with opportunities to access further social services." In a nutshell, those services include counseling and mentoring services among others.
  • Your third offense will result in a third write-up. If you're under 18, that write-up will also go to your parent or guardian.

What we find most interesting is how these changes affect employers. The new laws prohibit employers from taking action against employees for actual or prospective use of cannabis. And while they can still require drug tests, they can no longer make hiring decisions based on the results.

Opportunities for Growth

New Jersey's landscape makes it a peak location for vertical integration. The space available to companies looking to run their entire seed-to-sale process exists in the southern parts of the state. And let's not forget the proximity to another emerging market - New York. The prospect of federal legalization becomes more real every day. This means cannabis crossing state lines (like from a NJ grow to a NY dispensary) will change the game yet again - in a good way!

Jobs, Jobs, Jobs

Adult-use sales in New Jersey have yet to begin. Because of this, the number of jobs becoming available might seem like a slow climb. Companies are trying to navigate the uncertainty around licensing. And, in turn, jobseekers feel caught in a weird limbo. Patience for both sides is key here. We're all hoping for more information and guidance in the coming months.

The parties that do seem to benefit during this flux are MSOs. They arrive in New Jersey with previous experience in launching other markets. And the financial backing to withstand a long licensing process. So jobs at companies like Green Thumb Industries (GTI) and Curaleaf could become available sooner.

But let's not discount the advantages of existing medical cannabis providers. Those smaller companies could get adult-use licenses simply due to tenure. And while that may not mean more jobs in the short-term, it could mean opportunities for expansion.

Regardless of how the process plays out, New Jersey is a market we won't take our eyes off anytime soon.

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