US (NJ): Fears grow that Black businesses will be left out of recreational marijuana market

Jersey City plant shop owner Shayla Cabrera has eyed the cannabis industry for years, dreaming of growing and selling her own cannabis crop in a market where sales are expected to top one billion dollars the first year.

As a Black woman, Cabrera has an edge in the highly competitive race to snag the limited number of cultivator licenses. New Jersey has pledged to prioritize applicants from marginalized populations, as it looks to atone for a war on drugs that ravaged communities of color.

That laudable goal has created a problem: Some established operators are trying to enter the industry through the diversity door. A California cultivator found Cabrera on a directory of diverse business owners and wooed her with a flight to their West Coast farm and an attractive business deal. Cabrera turned them down.

“It’s a predatory practice that’s happening in multiple states, under the guise of social equity,” she said. “The government says they’re encouraging social equity, but straight up, Black people are being left out.” The regulators tasked with launching New Jersey’s recreational marijuana market say they’re working to ensure multi-state operators and deep-pocketed out-of-towners don’t corner the cannabis market here.


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