Written by Erica Roane
Illinois became the 11th state to legalize recreational marijuana. While this is great news for the Midwest, there may be some sad faces on the East Coast. In both New York and New Jersey, marijuana has been approved for medical use however both states have yet to make recreational adult usage legal statewide. In the meantime, potential entrepreneurs within the cannabis space are becoming restless.
Axel Bernabe, Assistant Counsel to the Governor for Health, New York State Executive Chamber; along with Jeff Brown, Assistant Commissioner, Medical Marijuana, New Jersey Department of Health participated in “The Legalization of Cannabis & Future Business Opportunities in New York and New Jersey,” a panel moderated by Kelley Crosson, Vice President, New Jersey Cannabis Industry Association during CWCBExpo New York.
The panel offered a rare opportunity for investors and entrepreneurs to gain firsthand knowledge on business opportunities on the East Coast. “We believe there are endless opportunities for business development in New York and New Jersey,” said Crosson.
Expansion in NJ
Cannabis business is growing exponentially in New Jersey. Earlier this week the state announced its plans to issue up to 108 additional medical marijuana licenses. New Jersey has also added five new categories of conditions including opioid abuse disorder.
This is not only an amazing opportunity for patients to have better access to treatment, but also a great opportunity for new types of marijuana business.
If you’re looking to do cannabis business in New Jersey, compassion and patient care should be the groundwork for your business. “Everything that we do is about making life better for patients. We’re looking to set up a market for businesses to succeed but we want patients to have a voice with enough competition,” said Brown.
Cannabis businesses that prioritize marijuana patients will be best positioned to succeed in New Jersey.
“We are looking to eliminate all barriers for patients. For instance, the longest time between registration [for a medical marijuana card] with your doctor and getting your card is the mail. We would love to get to a place where patients don’t have to use a physical card. If a business could facilitate something like a digital card we would like to hear more about it.”
Cannabis Business In NY
“In New York we are focused on public health, social equity, and economic development. These are the three things we’re trying to achieve through cannabis regulation,” explained Bernabe.
“One thing I would recommend if you’re looking to get into cannabis business in NY is to articulate your value propositions to regulators with these three things in mind. If you come to us and tell us ‘I have the best extractor and here’s my price,’ that’s interesting however if you say that you’ve come up with a public health solution that has social equity components which involves giving back to your community or you’re into wellness, thats a value proposition I would be very interested in hearing more about it.”
Bernabe also makes it clear that social equity is the cornerstone of statewide marijuana legalization in New York. Future cannabis businesses that include this component into their business plan will go far. “For adult use, social equity is what we’re looking to accomplish. [We want to support] folks that have been disproportionately affected by the war on drugs. If you have a way of partnering, a way of incubating social equity. If you can get them equity and capital we are all ears. This is our priority.”
Business Opportunities in Both States
Bernabe revealed that New York State also has similar needs regarding medical marijuana and cannabis which new businesses can fill.
“Speaking insurance company language is what we really need to expand medical marijuana in New York. We are looking to solve for the problems of accommodating the rigor verifications that insurance companies need, as well as how to navigate pre-authorization speed bumps we would love to learn more.”
Officials from both states encouraged new businesses that support patients through this process, with the largest area of new businesses existing in 3rd party companies who can work with insurance companies.
“Our challenge in New Jersey is around how to do a pre-authorization around medical marijuana, said Brown. ‘What do you do when you go to the doctor and your insurance company doesn’t pre-authorization available?’ From a business perspective, someone needs to fill the gap between medical providers and insurance companies.”
“We’re creating a new industry, and giving people an option to participate. We want to distribute opportunities. We’re not reinventing the wheel.” Bernabe encouraged. “We’re not looking for you to solve our problems however we are looking for solutions. If you can help us we’re interested.”