A tornado warning and pouring rain wasn’t enough to deter industry power players from NJ Cannabis Insider’s first in-person gathering at The Asbury hotel to discuss the current state of the cannabis industry.
The July 29 business mixer, presented by Hance Construction, attracted insiders throughout the state, many of whom hadn’t ventured out to meet in person since NJ Cannabis Insider Live’s March 2020 conference.
“Look around you. Everyone here is part of the village that is building the industry here and in the region,” said NJ Cannabis Insider editor and publisher Enrique Lavin during his opening remarks.
The boutique hotel’s stylish digs coupled with digital signage — some screaming in bold letters “Welcome back” — placed throughout the meeting hall and outdoor tent, gave the mixer a glimmer of what’s ahead for the industry: an open marketplace with plenty of opportunities for everyone.
About 250 registered guests got to network on the floor, eat and listen to a panel that touched on the legal and business frameworks that were necessary in order to succeed in the cannabis business.
The business meetup, which featured the panel discussion “Delivery, Equity and Microlicensing,” took place at a point in time in where the regulations are still currently being written out. With a looming August deadline on cannabis regulations, towns and businesses alike are waiting to see the next moves from a newly formed Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
During the panel, Precious Osagie-Erese, chief operating officer for cannabis delivery company Roll Up Life, indicated that the industry would be defined by filling current gaps.
“Identifying the problem, networking, meeting people, putting a plan together that makes sense … Those are some of those key aspects,” she said.
Osagie-Erese’s business exists within a spectrum of pandemic necessity and social distancing. Delivery services also exist in a way that is unique to the cannabis market.
While many other supply chains around the world were being stretched due to scarcity during the pandemic, the cannabis market was the opposite.
Legacy operators have had a steadier supply, but the handful of legalized operators have found it hard to currently cover one of the densest states in the country.
That supply chain discrepancy has led to a shortage of legalized weed.
The current market having a supply chain issue makes the logistics of getting a product from one point to another all the more valuable, Osagie-Erese said.
“We figured that delivery and transportation could be that gap,” she said.
Having enough capital to make a business is something that will play a key role, said Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper attorney Robert Anderson.
“At the end of the day, when you’re a startup, financing is key,” he said.
When qualifying as an equity business, Anderson said, owners also have to take care that the people who are financing them aren’t holding a disproportionate amount of sway over their company.
The consistent risk of that happening is something that all owners will have to keep in mind as they start their business, Anderson said.
Sydney Snow, government affairs manager for Eaze, one of the largest cannabis delivery services on the West Coast, noted how the company partnering with smaller businesses was inherent to its success model and wanted to do the same thing in the Garden State.
Snow also touched on Eaze’s social equity programs and talked about the importance of pitching workshops, equity grants and community partnerships.
“We’re hoping to do the same thing when we come to New Jersey,” she said.
Ellie Siegel, CEO and founder of cannabis consulting firm Longview Strategic, made the point that the largest advantage microlicenses had was their connection to one another.
“One thing that I would have to say that you have to focus on is that you are truly here, you’re a New Jersey resident,” she said.
Siegel’s comments ran in line with the often cited dynamic of microlicenses being compared to microbreweries in the alcohol industry where such brands are able to establish local followings in ways that bigger brands can’t.
Using the equity carve-outs to cement an advantage over larger more well-funded groups would require that microlicenses find a way to bring something to the table that is unique, Siegel said.
“The advantage to being a local is that you can pursue advantages and opportunities that out-of-staters can’t,‘’ she said.
The event was sponsored by early-adopters in New Jersey’s cannabis space: Hance Construction, Supreme Security Alarms, Harvest 360, Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper, Longview Strategic, Shore Grow, HBK, EWMA (Environmental Waste Management Associates) and IAL (Integrated Analytical Laboratories) BCB Bank , PSI Process and Cognitive Harmony Technologies, the event’s social equity sponsor.
The event also counted on the support of New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, the Garden State’s largest trade group, and Stockton University, which offers an interdisciplinary minor in Cannabis Studies and which recently launched the Cannabis & Hemp Research Initiative.
While NJ Cannabis Insider Live’s July business meetup was its first in-person event of the year, it had a series of virtual conferences and business mixers in the spring, including an event for the New York market in May.
Its next in-person business conference is scheduled for Sept. 23 at the Carteret Performing Arts Center, contingent on CDC and state COVID-19 guidelines. For more information, contact NJ Cannabis Insider staff here.
NJ Cannabis Insider is a weekly subscriber-based online trade journal and events group produced by NJ Advance Media, which also publishes NJ.com, The Star-Ledger and other affiliated papers.