Cannabis License Application Writing Case Study

Learn how we helped a group in New Jersey write and submit a winning Class 5 Cannabis Retailer license application.

Project Overview

MOST is a consulting and marketing company that serves businesses in the cannabis space. For 12 years, we've worked with dispensaries, cultivators, processors, and other adjacent brands. Cannabis consulting is one of our four pillar services in which we offer application writing services and advisory to groups seeking licensure in adult-use and medical states. 

Cannabis license application writing is a long and complex process that is difficult for people to navigate without the help of a skillful group that has done it successfully in multiple states. It is especially difficult for groups that want to obtain a license but have little to no cannabis or regulated industry experience.

This is where MOST comes in. We possess the cannabis industry experience to assist you with the application writing process and help you construct your leadership team, raise the necessary capital, and position your brand identity for success after you become operational.

We have experience writing applications in over a dozen states and four countries and have helped numerous groups in New Jersey obtain their conditional and annual cannabis licenses. The company that is the subject of this case study reached out to us to help them write the entire state application and complete the local application for the municipality they are to open.

This case study outlines our application writing strategy and process and provides insight into how we help groups obtain licensure through thoughtful planning and attentive project management.

Market Overview

New Jersey prioritizes social equity businesses, diversely-owned businesses, and impact zone businesses in their application review and scoring process. Applications in these designations receive priority review, scoring, and approval. Thus, it is essential for applicants to understand how they will be classified and prioritized and to formulate a strategy that is fitting to their designation. 

This particular client was categorized as a diversely-owned business that was also in an impact zone. As part of our application strategy, we recognized the importance of establishing a dynamic commitment to diversity and the economic advancement of the community they were to join. Recognizing these opportunities is important for crafting a strong application and will help shape your company's mission, vision, and culture when you become operational. Regardless of the application strategy, we encourage clients to take an economically, environmentally, and socially conscious approach to business.

The bottom line is that each state differs in how the governing body handles its application and scoring process. When starting a state application, it is essential to understand how the governing body will score the applications, which applications will receive priority, and if there are any steps you can take to responsibly capitalize on available bonus points.

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The Applicant

The client's leadership team features individuals with about 30 years of collective retail, cannabis, and general business experience. This collective experience was a good starting point for writing a compelling management profile for the application. However, simply possessing the experience does not guarantee that the governing body scoring the applications will see the group as the best fit for operating in that state. Ultimately, the state wants to approve cannabis businesses that will be successful and secure, and they will award licenses to the groups that they think have the best chance based on their experience and plans for the business.

For this reason, we needed to not only communicate the experience of the client's team but also to present it in a way that would show the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Committee ("CRC") that they would be able to successfully operate under the conditions of the New Jersey market and within the regulatory guidelines.

When writing an application and preparing the management team's profile and bios, we take a holistic look at the leadership team's experience in their previous positions and the cannabis industry, if applicable. For example, some clients possess no cannabis industry experience but do have experience in other highly regulated industries that would translate well to the cannabis space. Familiarity with compliance, security, and other factors can significantly boost an application's chance of approval, even if that experience is from sectors outside of cannabis like healthcare, pharmacies, and other highly-regulated markets.

State regulatory committees typically judge cannabis license applications using a points or scoring system that the state uses to compare applicants and determine who is most qualified to operate a successful business based on their experience and written plans. In our experience writing applications, we find that groups with cannabis experience possess a significant advantage over groups with little to no cannabis experience. This advantage comes from understanding state regulations, operational standards for cannabis companies, and what governing bodies are looking for in an application.

Cannabis businesses have many considerations, and things to account for that traditional businesses do not need to worry about as much, such as thorough security plans, compliance plans, community impact initiatives, the secure disposal of waste, and other factors.

This is not to say that groups with no cannabis experience cannot or should not apply for a license. Still, they should be aware of the differences between the cannabis industry and the sectors in which they previously operated.

Strategic Planning

Like other adult-use and medical markets, New Jersey has a detailed application process. It requires prospective license holders to submit several written plans to the state that outline their strategy for opening and operating a successful cannabis business. However, we also needed to develop and submit a local application for the municipality our client intended to open.

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State Application

Below are some of the sections, among others, that New Jersey requires for submission:

  • Workforce Development
  • Environmental Impact Plan
  • Management Profiles
  • Plan to Obtain Liability Insurance
  • Regulatory Compliance Plan
  • Community Impact Plan
  • Business Plan
  • Security Plan 
  • Complete set of SOPs

While not every state has the same set of required sections, most follow a similar format and will expect you to demonstrate how the business will operate securely and successfully while in compliance with state regulations.

Applicants must also submit background checks, resumes, personal identification, New Jersey business documentation, and other items. In this project, we handled the application's written portions. Also, we helped the client to compile all of the necessary documentation leading up to the application submission.

While the written component of the application will ultimately determine if you are approved, you cannot overlook the importance of correctly compiling and submitting the ancillary documents and affidavits. Missing one document can cause your application to be rejected and kicked back, wasting time and opening the door for other groups to submit in front of you for a limited number of licenses.

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Local Application

We also helped the client obtain local approval from the municipality where their dispensary will be located. In New Jersey and some other states, local approval is required by certain municipalities but not by others. When deciding on a dispensary location and a municipality where to operate, you should consider whether or not that municipality will need to approve you before you obtain a license from the state.

Local approval applications often have a lot of overlap with the state application. However, to formulate a cohesive and compelling local application, you will need to be strategic in meeting the needs of that specific municipality. For example, some municipalities put a greater emphasis on community impact and charity work. A municipality with many residents with prior cannabis-related convictions may value a plan for expungements more than a municipality with few residents with cannabis-related convictions.

When starting the local application process, it is essential to have a team that can help you put together a winning strategy based on the demographics, geography, and socioeconomic traits of the area where your business will operate.

Writing Process

At the beginning of each project, we work collectively with our client to create a timeline or roadmap for the application writing and submission. This roadmap includes the completion dates for each required section and target dates for the submission itself. There are many moving parts and details to keep track of in these projects, which makes it essential to be organized and calculated.

In addition to providing a road map at the beginning, we frequently meet with our clients during these projects to collaborate on the application, have brainstorming sessions, align on the general strategy and approach, and review progress. We typically meet once or twice weekly throughout the project to keep everything on track.

Our system ensures a smooth workflow throughout the writing and submission process, allowing clients to be as involved as they need. Attention to detail and a sense of urgency are two things that are essential to a winning application. As an applicant, you will compete for a few available licenses with many qualified, experienced, and financially-backed groups. You, therefore, cannot afford to waste time or have things fall through the cracks.

This is another benefit of having an application consultant or advisor as part of your team. We ensure that the project stays on track, that deadlines are hit, and that no essential application pieces are missed leading up to submission.

In these projects, we typically work internally on the writing portions between strategy meetings with the client. We then submit pieces to the client for review so they can see the general approach and ensure that it aligns with their larger vision for the company and brand. While we can manage and guide the project, we find that a collaborative approach will strengthen the application because the owner's vision is present in the community impact plan, security plan, job creation plan, and other sections that will shape the company's culture.

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Application Advisory

There are many ways we can assist in the application process outside of the writing portion. We have worked with clients in many capacities to write and submit applications. In some instances, we have handled the entire process, writing all the application sections, acting as the project manager, and overseeing the submission of all required documents and materials to the state. In other cases, we have taken more of an advisory role in reviewing and redacting sections that the client's team wrote. Our level of involvement depends on the experience of the submitting team, their success with the cannabis licensing processes in other states, and of course, their budget. When we start an application project, we first have an onboarding call to determine the project's scope and where our assistance is most needed.

The Result

We received notice from this particular group in New Jersey that the New Jersey CRC accepted our application in the winter of 2022. After submission of the conditional application and its subsequent approval, we assisted our client with the conversion process to an annual application, which entailed writing a series of standard operating procedures and other sections required by the New Jersey CRC.

We have a high success rate with cannabis licensing applications, and we are always thrilled to hear when the applications we help to write are approved. We love seeing our clients get closer to achieving their goal of opening a legal cannabis business. New Jersey is a competitive market with many groups vying for the available licenses, and we are proud of our team for constructing a strategic, creative, and ultimately successful application.

Cannabis License Application Support

Thank you for taking the time to visit our website and read our cannabis license application case study! If you're interested in applying for a dispensary, cultivator, processing, transportation, or another license type in an adult-use or medical cannabis market, MOST has the expertise to help you prepare a winning application. We have experience writing applications in over a dozen states and four countries and have assisted applicants with the local approval process in the municipality where their business is located.

Contact us today to schedule a complimentary consultation to discuss your project and how we can be a good fit to assist in the application process. We look forward to hearing from you and to helping you successfully launch your cannabis business.