New Jersey Cannabis 2024

The Green Scene

Rob Mejia at a Cannabis Career Fair- Stockton University 2022

Rob Mejia is President of Our Community Harvest: A Cannabis Education Company which creates cannabis educational materials including online courses. He is also one of New Jersey’s most sought-after cannabis and hemp speakers and presenters. 

His authorship includes The Essential Cannabis Book: A Field Guide for the Curious and The Essential Cannabis Journal: Personal Notes from the Field- both published by Cedar Lane Press.

At Stockton University he helped launch CHRIS -the Cannabis & Hemp Research Initiative at Stockton- as a hemp and non-medical research hub and cannabis education center. Currently, he holds the position of Teaching Specialist in Cannabis Studies and teaches the Introduction to Medical Cannabis, Social Justice and Cannabis and Cannabis Internship Preparation courses. 

In recognition of his cannabis advocacy and education efforts, he is the recipient of the Inaugural Excellence in Cannabis Education Award for the state of New Jersey.

New Jersey Cannabis 2024: Looking Forward and Getting Paid

When a new industry is poised to nearly double its revenue in one year, it is notable. That’s where the New Jersey cannabis industry is. Data from 2022 (and early 2023) shows that New Jersey cannabis businesses generated 555 million dollars in sales last year. This year those businesses -and a slate of newly licensed cultivators, processors, edibles manufacturers, and dispensary owners- are on pace to sell 1 billion dollars in cannabis.

In addition to robust sales growth, here are some additional useful comparisons and statistics that reveal the status of our fledgling New Jersey cannabis industry. The number of adult use dispensaries has risen from 20 to 72 in a single year. Meanwhile, medical use dispensaries had modest growth from 10 to 11 facilities, respectively. 

Another exciting development is the NJCRC’s acceptance of license applications for these three new business classes:

Distributor- a business that transports bulk cannabis and cannabis products.

Wholesaler- a business that stores, buys and/or sells bulk cannabis and cannabis products.

Delivery- getting cannabis and cannabis products from a store to individual buyers.

Licenses for these categories opened on September 27, 2023, for Social Equity Businesses, will open on December 27, 2023, for Diversely Owned Businesses (either women owned, minority owned or disable veteran owned), and finally, on March 27, 2024, all other businesses may apply. This staggered schedule was designed to give social equity and diversely owned businesses a head start in the licensing process. 

In 2023 a much more expansive edibles and infused beverage market was announced. Some class 2 manufacturers have already applied for a waiver and have started producing caramels and chocolates. Once a public comment period has ended, all class 2 licensees will be able to produce edibles and infused beverages as diverse as baked goods, savory snacks, infused oils and butters, jams, and low THC (5 milligrams per serving or less) infused beverages. Previously, only soft and hard lozenges, syrups, drink drops, pills, tablets, and capsules were allowed.

Then, the NJEDA (New Jersey Economic Development Authority) offered two rounds of ground-breaking cannabis grants last year. First, they awarded a “Joint Ventures Grant” in the amount of $250,000 to 48 recipients. Following the first grant, the second grant -funded at $150,000 per grant- called The Phase II Seed Equity Grant is solely for social equity applicants (with a 5% Impact Zone set aside). Applicants must have obtained a conditional license but may not have secured the real estate or municipal approval needed. Additionally, all applicants who secure this grant will be eligible for 8 weeks of technical/training assistance. 

While the New Jersey cannabis market is growing at a fast pace, issues such as municipalities opting out of the cannabis business, difficulty in securing capital, and running a business that is technically federally illegal and overregulated continues to stunt the full potential of the industry. 

Career Opportunities in NJ Cannabis

The labor market demand for cannabis jobs and businesses in New Jersey is unmistakably robust. The burgeoning legalization and acceptance of cannabis products have paved the way for a surge in employment opportunities and entrepreneurial ventures across the state. The once niche market has rapidly transformed into a thriving industry, propelling the need for a diverse range of skills and expertise.

In New Jersey, the call for skilled professionals to contribute to various facets of the cannabis sector is resounding. From cultivation and processing to retail and distribution, branding and creating intellectual property, accounting to compliance, job openings have multiplied, encompassing both entry-level positions and high-level management roles. This surge in demand has created a ripple effect, prompting individuals to upskill and specialize in areas such as horticulture, extraction techniques, compliance, and customer service.

Cannabis business operators are seizing the moment, establishing startups, and running enterprises that cater to the evolving market. The demand for innovative products, coupled with changing consumer preferences, has fostered an environment ripe for business growth. Ancillary services, such as legal consultation, marketing, and sustainable packaging, have also flourished as companies seek support to navigate the unique regulatory landscape -and emerging opportunities- of the industry. 

As New Jersey continues to embrace the potential of the cannabis market, the labor landscape adapts accordingly. The once speculative job market has evolved into a dynamic landscape offering stability, growth, and a chance for professionals and businesses to be at the forefront of a transformative industry. 

According to the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission, to date they have granted over 1,200 conditional cannabis licenses in the following business classes: cultivation, processing/manufacturing, and retail dispensaries. All these businesses will need qualified owners and operators representing a myriad of opportunities. 

Here are some further takeaways from the 2023 Vangst cannabis jobs report:

  • Nationwide, annual cannabis sales increased by $850 million in 2022. That’s a 3% rise, from $25.25 billion in 2021 to $26.1 billion in 2022. That figure includes all state-regulated medical and adult-use sales (not hemp, delta-8, CBD, or unregulated sales). 
  • As of February 2023, cannabis sales in the 19 fully legal adult-use states supported 321,361 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs, while cannabis sales in the 21 medical-only states supported 96,132 jobs.
  • About 30% of America’s cannabis workers are cultivating the crop — that’s more than 125,000 people across the country. This job category includes: Director of Cultivation: $100k − $150k Grow Manager: $65k − $90k Trimmers: $16 − $20 / hour 
  • Retail stores and medical marijuana dispensaries employ about 22% of cannabis workers, more than 91,000 people nationwide. Director of Retail: $100k − $130k General Manager: $65k − $100k Budtender: $17 − $28 / hour 
  • About 20% of all cannabis jobs fall into the “ancillary” category. These jobs don’t come in direct contact with plants or products but wouldn’t exist without the legal cannabis industry. These jobs include: General Counsel: $150k − $225k Controller: $90k − $140k Director of Marketing: $90k − $100k Human Resources Generalist: $55k − $85k 
  • Processors turn cannabis flower into finished products, a category that employs 18% of the industry, or more than 75,000 people. Director of Extraction: $90k − $140k Edibles Specialist: $45k − $75k Extraction Technician: $45k − $90k Packager: $16 − $20 / hour 
  • Cannabis testing labs employ around 2,500 people nationwide. Jobs include: Lab Director: $90k − $130k Chemist: $60k − $80k Lab Technician: $45k − $60k
  • Job growth in 2023: As the chart above indicates, in new and emerging markets, look for company headcount to rise dramatically. 

This all means that the time to get involved in the New Jersey cannabis market as an owner or employee is now. We may never see opportunities like this again and with a good baseline of cannabis knowledge, a strong work ethic, and some tenacity and luck you too, can succeed in this amazing industry. 

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