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New Jersey touts recreational cannabis milestone, but dispensary owners cite ongoing challenges

N.J. dispensary owners say challenges remain in recreational cannabis industry
N.J. dispensary owners say challenges remain in recreational cannabis industry 02:16

BLOOMFIELD, N.J. -- There are now more than 100 legalized medical and recreational cannabis dispensaries in New Jersey.

Gov. Phil Murphy is touting it as a milestone, but some in the industry say they still face challenges.

Inside Leaf Haus, a cannabis micro-dispensary in Somerset, manager Tim Kerr says the industry's come a long way in the Garden State.

"Growing up in New Jersey, I never thought that it would be legal here, so it's a fantastic step forward. I just hope the train keeps going in that direction," he said.

Leaf Haus' husband-and-wife co-owners say their 8-month-old business is not on a high financially. They say it took two years and lots of money, and they both hold on to their other jobs.

"It's very hard for people, like, from minority group to be able to get license and I think that should change as well," co-owner Shani Madaminova said.

Corey Dishman, his father and his business partner began their cannabis dispensary dream four years ago. Their West Orange business, the Library Cannabis Shop, is still under construction.

"The culture of cannabis is actually extremely inclusive, very diverse. The industry does not reflect that. There's a huge detachment," Dishman said.

"The root of the cause essentially is that everyone still looks at us as criminals, and that's the reason why we're over-regulated and the over-regulation leads to extended bureaucracy," Library Cannabis Shop co-owner Charles Penn said.

"I want to see more, particularly with the folks who deserve to have those licenses in Black, Brown, women, minority generally, veteran communities," the governor said.

"It's lot of capital to burn through to become successful," Kerr said.

Kerr says walking into a dispensary is sort of like walking into a winery; there are different varieties of cannabis. In fact, you can come into the dispensary, look at it through a lens and even smell it, but what he says is lacking in the state is cultivators.

"Our customers are really looking for more variety, better quality. They want to support independent and locally owned brands," Nightjar Dispensary co-owner Francesa Derogatis said.

Her cannabis dispensary is majority female owned.

According to the New Jersey Regulatory Cannabis Commission, there are more than 200 operating licenses in the state, including 23 cultivators and 15 manufacturers.

The owners we talked to say they know the industry will thrive once obstacles are overcome.

Owners also say there are restrictions on advertising, so getting the word out about their business has been tough.

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