A ripple of dismay and confusion surged through New Jersey’s conditional license applicants last week. So the state’s top regulator, Jeff Brown, wants everyone to know: No matter the circumstances, conditional licenses will be considered first.
“Conditional applications get priority over annual applications. The way our prioritization system works is that people with past convictions and those in economically disadvantaged areas get a leg up in this market,” Brown told Grown In on Friday.
Brown, the executive director of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC), was saying something that might seem obvious to some. But after numerous applicants and cannabis attorneys watched a New Jersey CannaBusiness Association webinar last week, it wasn’t obvious to everyone. In the webinar Brown boasted that the CRC’s review process has been going so well, his agency has begun to move on from applications filed by non-justice involved and economically disadvantaged applicants, so called “conditional” applicants.
Brown’s statements in the webinar and a subsequent article from a local cannabis publication alarmed many New Jersey applicants and their attorneys, who took Brown’s statement as a signal that regulators are now giving priority to regular, non-conditional applicants. Their worry kicked off a firestorm of social media and cannabis text group discussions across the state.
Donte, a conditional applicant who watched the webinar and asked that his last name be withheld, was convinced Brown meant his still to be submitted application would now be considered after non-social equity applicants.
“The whole point [of the conditional license] was that you’re supposed to have your license open before those people,” he said.
Brown’s webinar statement also was a red flag for cannabis attorney Mollie Lustig, who has a client that’s been waiting since March for her conditional license to be converted to a long-term “annual” license.
“What we understood him to say is the Commission is now reviewing annual applications, and those who were required to cure are being reviewed after the first go around for annual licenses,” said Lustig who also viewed the webinar.
Not true, Brown told Grown In.
“It all gets sorted the same exact way. If you review our notice of application acceptance, it’s all laid out there in detail,” he said.
Brown qualified that perhaps while waiting for a conditional license to review the CRC team might review an annual license, which could thus end up approved before the conditional license, but for the most part, CRC will be working to prioritize conditional licenses.