All You Need to Know Before Applying For a Marijuana Dispensary License in New Jersey

The state of New Jersey is all set to launch its cannabis revolution. New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission will begin accepting applications for Class 5 Retailer Licenses on March 15, 2022. All cannabis business applications must be submitted online through the Commission’s application portal. Dispensary license applications will be accepted on a rolling basis unless indicated otherwise, with priority review, scoring, and approval given to applicants that qualify as Social Equity Businesses, Diversely-Owned Businesses, Impact Zone Businesses, and to applicants that receive bonus points on their respective applications.

Applicants must note that priority will also be given to conditional license applications over annual license applications, and microbusiness applications will be prioritized over standard cannabis business applications in every category. Currently, there is no deadline for license application submission, but if you are considering opening a cannabis dispensary in New Jersey, you must start preparing your application now, as approvals can take up to a year or more. In the event, the Commission decides to establish a date on which it will stop accepting application submissions, at least thirty days’ notice will be provided before the application deadline date for any class of license.

Remember that a cannabis retail business plan and a detailed compliance plan, including the tech stack and pos system you'll be using at your dispensary, are the most crucial components of your license application for NJ. Without a comprehensive plan, your application will be refused and you'll have to submit another application with these mandatory requirements. Let the following step-by-step process be your guide to applying for a cannabis retailer license in New Jersey.


Step 1: Prepare Your Cannabis Business Application As Per The Following Timeline

The New Jersey Cannabis Commission shall begin accepting license applications for Class 1 Cultivator, Class 2 Manufacturer, and Class 6 Retailer Licenses, and release information pertaining to the application process according to the following schedule:

November 9, 2021 Notice of Application Acceptance

November 30, 2021 Pre-Application Webinar

December 15, 2021 – 9 AM EST CRC begins accepting Class 1, Class 2, and Testing Laboratory applications

March 15, 2022 – 9 AM EST CRC begins accepting Class 5 Retailer Applications


Step 2: Be Meticulous and Comply With New Jersey's Application Process

Applications for cannabis businesses shall be available at You must create an account on the Commission’s application submission portal and electronically submit all information and attachments required. No paper or hard copy submissions will be accepted. For an application to be deemed complete and responsive, it must include a complete response to each of the criteria specified, as well as completion and submission of all mandatory information. Before submitting your cannabis business license application for New Jersey, ensure the following:

  • Responses to all required questions in the online application must be thorough and complete
  • All attachments, forms, and documents must be submitted electronically in the online application
  • All required fees must be paid

Step 3: Ensure That You Qualify and Apply For The Right Category

To be eligible to submit a cannabis business application, you must be registered to do business in the State of New Jersey by the Division of Revenue and Enterprise Services in the Department of the Treasury, have both federal and state taxpayer-identification numbers, and comply with all provisions of N.J.S.A. 24:6I-31 through 56 and N.J.A.C. 17:30 for license applicants. At least one owner listed in the application must have resided in New Jersey for at least two years before the date of application.

Applications will be accepted on a continuous rolling basis and reviewed per the priority outlined below, and in the order that they were submitted. Conditional licenses will be prioritized over annual licenses for every category. Click here to see if you meet the criteria for priority applications.

  1. Social Equity Businesses
  2. Diversely Owned businesses
  3. Impact Zone Businesses
  4. License applicants receiving bonus points
  5. All other applicants for conditional licenses

Applications from entities that meet criteria for more than one priority status will be reviewed, scored, and approved in accordance with the status of the highest priority. For example, an application from an entity that meets the criteria to be a Diversely-Owned Business and an Impact Zone Business will be considered a Diversely-Owned Business for purposes of application priority since Diversely-Owned Businesses are of higher priority than Impact Zone Businesses.


Step 4: Choose Between the Two Types Of Licenses: Conditional and Annual Licenses


Only licensees holding an annual license either through a conditional conversion application or an annual license application will be legally able to cultivate, produce, manufacture or dispense cannabis and cannabis items.

-A conditional license application will be prioritized and a licensee will have up to 5.5 months to apply to convert to an annual license. These licensees will not need site control or municipal approval initially. Only applicants who meet the requirements for the categories mentioned in step 3 can apply for this license.

-Anyone can apply for an annual license, but such applications will only be reviewed after conditional license applications. These applicants will have to undergo the full process as outlined in regulations and will require site control and municipal approval as well.

Pro Tip: If you're eligible to apply for a conditional license, choose that. Once granted, the path to conversion to an annual license will be easier. 


Step 5: Fortify Your Application To Receive Maximum Score For Each Measure

The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission has laid out certain measures for each type of license that correspond to a maximum number of points you can score on your application. For a conditional license application, the mandatory scored measures include business plan profile (40 points), regulatory compliance plan (50 points), and a plan for liability insurance (10 points), for a minimum of 100 points required for approval. For a conditional conversion application and an annual license application, there are multiple other measures that you’ll need to adhere to, and minimum scores of 160 points and 210 points are required, respectively.

Applicants must be issued scores on all mandatory measures to be eligible for approval. For each measure, you shall receive full points if you meet the requirements of that measure. If you do not meet the requirements of a specific measure, including failure to provide any information that is required to be provided, you will receive no points for your response, and your application will be rejected. Bonus points only count toward priority applications, if you qualify for one of those categories. They do not count toward the score necessary for approval.


Business plan checklist

Your cannabis retail business plan and compliance plan are by far the most important documents that you will need to draft to obtain a dispensary license in New Jersey. These documents can go up to 20 pages in length, and correspond to 90 out of 100 points for a conditional cannabis business license. These will not just help you secure financing and demonstrate to the authorities that your operations plan satisfies their legal requirements, but also be the foundation of all other subsequent measures, including workforce development, community impact, tech stack, SOPs, etc., that are required for conversion to an annual cannabis retail license in New Jersey.

Finally, the operating plan summary for Class 5 Retailers must include a written description concerning the applicant’s qualifications for, experience in, and knowledge of:

1. Sales of cannabis items to consumers; 2. Cannabis product evaluation procedures; 3. Recall plans; 4. Packaging and labeling 5. Inventory control and point-of-sale software or systems for the sale of cannabis items 6. The routes of administration, strains, varieties, and cannabinoid profiles of cannabis and cannabis items 7. Odor mitigation practices 8. Onsite and offsite recordkeeping 9. Waste disposal plans 10. Compliance with applicable laws and regulations.

With deep roots in retail technology that span emerging and compliance-laden markets, Cova has leveraged unique expertise to build a robust cannabis technology platform and POS system that is now trusted by more than 1,800 stores—and counting—from coast to coast across North America. We support retailers who are opening their first store and have helped others scale to over 100 locations. With Cova's cannabis industry-specific experience and agility, your dispensary in New Jersey will be up and running in no time, and our tech stack will ensure that you always stay compliant with the law. Cova can help you with your New Jersey cannabis retail license application and other aspects of opening a dispensary. To book a free consultation, click below.