NJ Marijuana Legalization: Businesses Don’t Need Weed License To Make Money

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Photo Credit: Bob Karp

“We can’t go in there smelling like this!”

The Mercedes-Benz absolutely reeked of marijuana. No matter how deep Jeanine Moss or her friends tried to bury the weed in their purses, the smell was so pungent it could stop passersby in their tracks.

Moss made a promise: She would find something that women could use to carry their marijuana without sacrificing the style to which they were accustomed. And without the overwhelming stench.

“I wanted to find something for us that was befitting of our status in life,” said Moss, who founded luxury handbag line AnnaBís, which satisfies both aims. “Why should we be sneaking around acting like guilty teenagers?”

Moss is one of many entrepreneurs to find their niche with a cannabis-adjacent business, cashing in on states’ moves to legalize marijuana from the outside in: Instead of focusing on marijuana, these businesses focus on the marijuana user.

New Jersey could well be next in line, with new Gov. Phil Murphy touting an effort to push legislation legalizing recreational use of marijuana – potentially creating a billion-dollar industry.

In many cases, success could come without having to touch a single gram of weed.

“As every new state gets involved, there’s different wrinkles so people really haven’t been able to be a national player because each market is different,” said Steve Annunziato, chief operating officer of Dymapak, which produces odor-proof and child-proof bags for marijuana dispensaries. “The market is so young and it’s not established, and, with that, it clearly leads to opportunity.”

Cannabis industry experts talk about businesses in terms of being “close to the plant.” A business that sells or grows marijuana is obviously closer than a publisher who distributes weed cookbooks.

The closer a business is to actual marijuana, the more hoops they must jump through: Experts expect a cutthroat process to obtain a New Jersey retail dispensary license, with an estimated 80 permits and hundreds of applicants.

But a cannabis-adjacent business? No state license would be required. And such enterprises would be beyond the reach of local ordinances passed by multiple Jersey Shore towns to ban marijuana sales.

Consider:

•iGrow, based in Ohio, provides cannabis-specific induction lighting for farmers, universities and the U.S. Department of Agriculture

•Florida-based MagicalButter sells a kitchen appliance that infuses butter with marijuana, allowing customers to create homemade weed edibles.

•In Colorado, a bed-and-breakfast encourages marijuana smoking and plans have been submitted for a “marijuana spa” in Denver, with smoking areas and cannabis-infused massages.

Inspired by the weed stench in the Mercedes, Moss launched AnnaBís (pronounced anna-bee) in 2015. Each AnnaBís product – prices range from $70 to $295 – has a variety of hidden pockets that are fitted with an aroma-blocking resin and airtight zippers.

But Moss’s success came not in New Jersey, where the idea was born, but in California: She moved there in 2016, fearing that her business would be targeted, since marijuana is still illegal on the federal level and former Gov. Chris Christie was a staunch opponent of legal weed.

“You don’t want to be in a repressive state, where they could decide to target me for nothing,” Moss said. “That was my fear. I’m making a product that doesn’t even touch the plant, but they would just decide I’m doing something terrible.”

Convenience and privacy

Sayreville resident Angela Colandrea hopes to make her mark in the cannabis industry not by selling marijuana, but delivering it. She explains why this business is ideal for her — as a mom who wants a career — in this video.

For now, it’s just a name and an idea: Weed on the Way, a marijuana delivery service connecting customers or patients with local dispensaries and bringing weed to their doorstep.

“A little weed makes the world a much happier place,” she said.

A recreational marijuana user herself, Colandrea said she believes delivery services will allow customers and medical marijuana patients to get weed and bypass the stigma that comes with it.

“I know plenty of moms who like to smoke, but they’re not going to stand in line at the dispensary – with a baby in our arms – and go buy some pot,” she said. “But if they have convenience, something that can be private and delivered to their door? What they do inside is their own business.”

In New Jersey, marijuana transportation businesses would be close enough to “the plant” to require a license, according to the most recent bill under consideration.

The laws vary in states that already have legal weed. Oregon is the most tightly regulated state: Deliveries can only occur in cities where selling marijuana is legal, between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. Vehicles can only carry up to $3,000 worth of marijuana at a time.

California loosely regulates deliveries, allowing anyone with a state-issued license to deliver anywhere except towns that have expressly banned deliveries.

In Colorado, deliveries are still illegal – but that hasn’t stopped some intrepid couriers from toeing the line of legality, purchasing weed from a dispensary and delivering it for a “donation.”

Weed on the Way will remain simply an idea until New Jersey regulators decide whether it will be allowed in the state, Colandrea said.

But she believes Weed on the Way could outgrow simple delivery services. She hopes to eventually offer subscription boxes to marijuana consumers, similar to services offered in California. Colandrea describes her subscription box idea in a video above.

Each monthly or seasonal box would come with a curated strain of the drug, either in marijuana flower, edible or oil, along with paraphernalia and shipped on a monthly or seasonal basis.

“Why would I buy weed from Joe Schmoe down the street when I can go get it from a reliable source,” she said.

A bit of gusto

Though state laws vary, dispensaries in most states with legalized weed or medical marijuana likely have a common link: They distribute their cannabis in a Dymapak bag.

After starting out offering novelty odor-proof bags for marijuana, the Edgewater company established itself as a leader in producing pharmaceutical-grade plastic bags given to dispensary customers or used to package marijuana-infused edibles.

The company exploded when it debuted the “Secure Sack” – a child-proof bag primarily used for weed products – in 2013. The bag was the first one on the market after Colorado legislators passed a law requiring all marijuana products to be stored in child-proof containers.

“It launched a frenzy for child-resistant packaging. And it’s mandated by the government, so people have to choose one of these products. We just hope it’s us,” Annunziato said.

Opening the bag requires more dexterity than a simple zip-close bag, with one hand pulling a hidden flap while the other opens the top of the bag. It’s been certified by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission as child-proof.

In the last six months, Dymapak sold over 10 million Secure Sacks.

“It’s really no different than any other business save for the fact that it’s federally illegal,” Annunziato said. “You need to have a bit of gusto.”

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