NJBAC Appoints Cannabis Advocate As Academy Director

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NJBAC Appoints Cannabis Advocate As Academy Director (1)

The New Jersey Business Action Center (NJBAC) has recently announced the appointment of Jessica F. Gonzalez as the Executive Director of the Cannabis Training Academy. This move comes at a time when the state’s cannabis industry is experiencing significant growth, with adult-use cannabis sales topping $100 million in the third quarter of 2022.

A New Era for Cannabis Entrepreneurs

Jessica F. Gonzalez, a renowned cannabis advocate and attorney, is set to lead the Cannabis Training Academy. Gonzalez, who has been a leading advocate for cannabis legalization since Governor Phil Murphy’s 2017 election win, brings a wealth of experience to her new role. She has previously taught a similar course at Hudson County Community College and has been a key figure in the NJ CAN 2020 coalition.

The Cannabis Training Academy is designed to provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs looking to establish cannabis businesses in New Jersey. The program will offer free educational courses, assistance in building business plans, and mentorship to cannabis business owners. The NJBAC’s proposed curriculum includes modules designed to help participants decide if a cannabis business is right for them and will include business plan development as well as a Legacy to Legal course.

The NJBAC’s initiative is part of a broader effort to ensure equitable representation of small and diverse cannabis businesses and owners. The program will target “Specially Designated Categories,” which include social equity businesses, diversely owned businesses, microbusinesses, and Impact Zone businesses. This move aligns with New Jersey’s commitment to fostering diversity in the cannabis industry, as evidenced by initiatives such as the cultivation of women cannabis entrepreneurs

A Flourishing Cannabis Market

The appointment of Gonzalez and the launch of the Cannabis Training Academy come at a time when New Jersey’s cannabis market is experiencing significant growth. Sales of adult-use cannabis in New Jersey for the third quarter of 2022 topped $100 million. The state now has 20 dispensaries licensed to sell recreational marijuana. This growth is expected to continue, with the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) having awarded 36 annual licenses for recreational cannabis businesses, including 15 for dispensaries.

The state’s cannabis industry is not without its challenges, however. The process of obtaining a New Jersey adult-use cannabis license remains a costly process, requiring a series of experts to navigate the industry’s complexities. The NJBAC’s new program aims to lower these barriers and provide the necessary training and guidance to help individuals succeed in the cannabis space.

Lot of Challenges Remain 

Despite the impressive Cannabis sales figures, the journey has not been without its challenges. Critics have argued that the cannabis regulators are acting too slowly, while state officials maintain that their actions are thoughtful and deliberate.

The state has awarded more than 1,200 conditional licenses for cultivation, manufacturing, and retail, with about 100 annual licenses awarded, including 37 converted from conditional to annual licenses. However, industry insiders, consumers, and even some lawmakers believe that the Garden State should be further along by now.

In a bid to provide hands-on training for those who want to start a career in New Jersey’s legal weed industry as retail employees, the state’s largest cannabis union, UFCW Local 360, has announced an application process for its apprenticeship program. The 12-week program will cover multiple aspects of functioning in a retail environment. This initiative is expected to not only benefit the apprentices but also help ensure a highly skilled and trained workforce for the future of the cannabis retail sector.

Despite the challenges, the future of the cannabis industry in New Jersey looks promising. The state is making strides in social equity, with about 70% of all cannabis licenses going to businesses with diverse ownership. As the industry continues to grow, the state is expected to see more local shops open, better access to capital, and increased transparency from the regulatory body. 



Vignesh Radhakrishnan
Vignesh Radhakrishnan
Sr Business Reporter
Vignesh is a principal correspondent (data) with India's leading national English daily. He manages a team of three journalists with whom he runs the Data Point section, which appears on the op-ed page five days a week and online. He also runs a data related youtube channel, a data podcast and a data newsletter.


Kristina Knight-1
Kristina Knight, Journalist , BA
Content Writer & Editor
Kristina Knight is a freelance writer with more than 15 years of experience writing on varied topics. Kristina’s focus for the past 10 years has been the small business, online marketing, and banking sectors, however, she keeps things interesting by writing about her experiences as an adoptive mom, parenting, and education issues. Kristina’s work has appeared with BizReport.com, NBC News, Soaps.com, DisasterNewsNetwork, and many more publications.

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