Date: November 9, 2023Attorney: Joshua S. Bauchner

Navigating the cannabis industry in the East Coast, particularly in states like New Jersey and New York, presents unique challenges. Two of the most significant hurdles are real estate scarcity and financing constraints. As the industry continues to grow, these challenges become increasingly apparent, requiring innovative solutions and strategic planning explains Joshua Bauchner, Chair of the Cannabis and Psychedelics practice group at Mandelbaum Barrett PC.

The Real Estate Dilemma

Finding suitable properties for cannabis operations is no small feat. As Tony Soprano famously remarked, “God ain’t making any more land,” and this scarcity is acutely felt in the context of the booming cannabis industry. With an astonishing 1,700 conditional license holders in New Jersey alone, competition for viable real estate is fierce. Each town has the option to opt into the cannabis market, but only a fraction has chosen to do so. The regulatory landscape, which varies from one township to another, adds another layer of complexity. In New York, especially in downstate areas like New York City, securing properly zoned and compliant real estate is equally challenging. Many commercial properties have lending covenants that prohibit leasing to businesses violating federal laws, which includes cannabis, creating further roadblocks for entrepreneurs.

The Financing Predicament

Traditional commercial lenders and nationally chartered banks are prohibited from extending their services to the cannabis sector due to federal prohibition. This limitation has forced many cannabis businesses to seek private financing, which often comes at a premium. Building a turnkey operation for a dispensary or other cannabis-related facilities can cost as much as a million dollars, making securing financing a critical and daunting task. With the absence of accessible commercial lending options, businesses face significant financial burdens.

Legislative Progress

Efforts have been made on the legislative front, such as the Safe Banking Act, aimed at addressing some of these challenges. However, the road to comprehensive regulatory frameworks remains uncertain. Legislative developments have offered a glimmer of hope, but the timeline for meaningful change remains uncertain.

The cannabis industry in New Jersey and New York is a complex and evolving landscape. Entrepreneurs and stakeholders must grapple with the scarcity of suitable real estate and navigate the intricate web of financing challenges. Innovative solutions and strategic planning are essential for overcoming these obstacles and thriving in this high-stakes market. As the regulatory environment continues to evolve, staying informed and adaptable will be key to success in this burgeoning industry.

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