EDITOR’S NOTE: NJ Cannabis Insider is hosting a day-long conference and networking event Sept. 15 at the Crowne Plaza Princeton, featuring many of the state’s leading power players. Tickets are limited.
Colia Best has the ambition and drive to get his cannabis business off the ground.
What’s missing is where to put it.
Best wants to have a property in hand to increase his chances of securing a retail microbusiness license with the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission. He’s been searching within a 30-mile radius of where he currently lives in Sicklerville, as far south as Atlantic City, and as far north as Burlington City since February.
Still no takers. He’s left messages with local officials. Many don’t call him back.
“It’s been disappointing,” Best told NJ Advance Media in a recent interview. “I’m still trying to find a town – a municipality. A lot of these towns won’t even look at you (for a license) without a property.
“That’s where I’m stuck at.”
The New Jersey cannabis law was meant to give minority applicants from disadvantaged backgrounds like Best not just an even playing field to get into the cannabis industry, but a leg up.
But in a red hot real estate market like New Jersey, where inventory is low and nearly three out of four municipalities have opted out of selling adult weed, landing a place to buy or rent for a legal cannabis store has turned into a nightmare struggle for many.
Some say the statute that Gov. Phil Murphy signed a year and half ago touting “social equity” to create a diverse and inclusive cannabis industry and help reverse the damage of the nation’s failed War on Drugs isn’t living up to its promises.
“The process is fraught with so many challenges for social equity applicants,” said cannabis attorney Chirali Patel, who offers a discounted rate for a few such applicants. “It’s even harder now. Of 564 municipalities, you have maybe only 120 towns that have opted in (to cannabis) in some shape or form, limited inventories, and the zoning ordinances they pass further limit where you can do business.”
The Cannabis Regulatory Commission, the 16-month old state agency regulating the industry and overseeing licensing, lists “equity and safety” as its twin goals. On its website, the CRC says: “Social equity businesses, diversely owned businesses, and impact-zone businesses will be prioritized in the licensure process so that their applications are reviewed before other applicants – regardless of when they apply.”
In addition, “Microbusinesses, which are limited to 10 employees and 2,500 square feet, will also be prioritized and, if successful, allowed to apply to expand their business in accordance with consumer demand.”
But some argue the law doesn’t take into account the myriad challenges facing social equity applicants. They must compete against big-money multi-state operators known as MSOs that have unlimited resources and capital for a limited pool of properties. They also deal with investors only interested in helping them out for a stake in their new businesses. And due to the federal prohibition of cannabis, a majority of American banks will not offer loans or lending options to small, minority and veteran-owned cannabis businesses.
So far, 17 dispensaries owned by eight MSOs began selling adult weed in New Jersey since April 21, and two more entered the market last week.
“We can’t compete with all these big MSOs,” said Best, 48, who claims he spends hours on the phone daily trying to line up investors, calling townships, and researching online for real estate. “It’s a waiting game. It’s like trickle down economics — we’re waiting to see what’s left for us.”
Of 102 conditional licenses awarded by the CRC in May and June, 37 were self-identified majority black-owned; 13 were self-identified as majority Hispanic or Latino owned; and roughly a third have owners who have past marijuana convictions. The stats don’t include the 79 conditional licenses announced Thursday.
Dianna Houenou, Chair of the CRC, explained that being awarded a conditional license just indicates an applicant has received initial vetting from the CRC — but not final vetting — and still needs to secure municipal approvals, financing and a site location before submitting an application for an annual license.
“We hope to see, want to see, a lot of our conditional awardees coming back to us for annual licensure — that’s really what the statute was meant to create — this pathway for those individuals,” Houenou told The Star-Ledger editorial board on July 11 while touting the agency’s minority outreach efforts.
“The CRC has, and will make sure, to offer resources for our prospective applicants so they know they can join this industry without having to jump through hoops like in other states.”
But Best said that’s exactly what he’s doing on the local level just to get a so-called resolution of support letter from the township.
“If I can’t get that, I cannot start a cannabis business because the local government is not supporting me,” said Best.
Linda Solana, 58, of Clifton, got her conditional license on June 30.
After months of trolling the internet, Solana found a property last month in next door Elmwood Park 17 minutes after it was posted online to set up her store, CannaVibes.
Elmwood Park is the seventh municipality Solana’s tried. She lost out to multi-state operators in Bellville, and was quickly out-priced over real estate and application fees in Teaneck, Montclair, North Bergen, South Orange and Jersey City.
More than once, Solana said she was advised to go into cultivating instead of pursuing a retail business because of the cut throat competition.
After securing the 3,300 square foot space for CannaVibes in May, Solana plunked down $8,900 on June 1 as the first month’s rent, along with a $17,000 security deposit. In addition, Solana has to give up 2.5 percent of gross profits to the landlord as part of the lease.
“I swam uphill,” said Solana during a recent interview at her day job – Canine Nanny in North Arlington – which pays the bills and start up costs for CannaVibes. She said the rest of the needed $900,000 to get CannaVibes off the ground was coming from partners and investors.
“The problem was real estate.”
Murphy on June 30 signed a bill sponsored by Senate President Nicholas Scutari, D-Union, chief architect of both the state’s medical and recreational adult weed bills, that is designed to help social equity applicants.
The new law allows grants and low interest loans from the state Economic Development Authority to small business cannabis applicants, who were previously banned from applying because of the federal prohibition on weed.
“This bill will help provide access to capital for small and diverse business owners,” Scutari said in a text on Friday.
But it can’t loosen a tough real estate that’s likely to get worse. The CRC reported it has received nearly 1,200 applications for conditional licenses as of July 28. All winners will need a location to apply to convert to an annual license.
“Every applicant trying to get a license is struggling to identify real estate, doesn’t matter if you’re an MSO or a Mom-and-Pop,” said Paul Josephson, an attorney with Duane Morris, who represents clients in various stages of the licensing application process.
“But we have a market problem in New Jersey, period, in the cannabis space. The real estate piece of the puzzle is always the biggest challenge in almost any jurisdiction, especially in New Jersey.”
Next are municipal approvals. Solana attended her share of planning board, mayoral and City Council meetings all spring and summer to show her loyalty and commitment to Elmwood Park officials.
Her persistence paid off. On July 21, Elmwood Park amended its ordinance to allow cannabis micro-businesses, a Category 5 license, to operate within the township. Next for Solana is to appear before the Elmwood Park City Council on Aug. 4 to convince them that CannaVibes will be situated far enough from an elementary school that sits across a six-lane highway. She is 14 feet short of the township’s requirement of at least 1,000 feet.
Solana plans to quote the CRC’s ordinance on cannabis businesses needing to be at least 200 feet away from schools, synagogues and other places of worship in her presentation Thursday.
“They (municipalities) are not giving us the chance to succeed,” said Solana. “They’re putting so many barriers on their ordinances.”
There’s a reason for that, said Bernie Haney, Director of Land Use for Neptune Township, which last week approved Verano Zen Leaf to expand to adult sales at its existing medical dispensary. The township is allowing up to three Class 5 adult use establishments and five retail microbusinesses.
“We have one opportunity to do it right, and nobody has ever done this before,” Haney said. “No one is giving us the rules to govern this. This is going from the bottom up as opposed from the top down. Each town is writing its own laws relative to where, when, how, and the vast majority of towns in New Jersey have opted out (of cannabis).
“We have never entertained the thought of opting out,” said Haney. “But the question was, `How are we going to opt in?’”
Best, the South Jersey entrepreneur, is asking the same thing. Best was hurt by the war on drugs, and is an object lesson for the new law’s restorative justice aims. Growing up in Plainfield’s inner city, Best was arrested for minor marijuana offenses and eventually went to prison for 6 1/2 years, starting in 1993, for heroin possession and distribution.
Best got out of prison in 2001. While on parole and living in a halfway house, he attended Berkeley College in Woodbridge and studied business administration and computer engineering. He now builds large solar energy systems for a Fortune 100 company and offers consulting work via his website www.solarpvplant.com. He’s been clean for 21 years and a father of two.
“Social equity applicants can make a difference in their communities by having their (cannabis) stores open, paying taxes, employing people,” said Best. “That’s the entrepreneurial spirit. This was supposed to be our chance to get our foot in the door.”
But now he’s afraid he’ll soon have no choice but to set his sights from starting and running his own weed shop, to simply delivering the crop to dispensaries owned by MSOs.
“Because it’s less stringent,” said Best. “Where else are we going to go?”
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Today, Tulip Protocol made the announcement that they have integrated Chainlink Price Feeds in order to better secure their yield aggregating platform that is running on the Solana mainnet. The team had previously stated their intention to integrate Chainlink Price Feeds, and at this point, the connection has been completely put into action. Chainlink is the premier decentralized oracle network in the world, safeguarding tens of billions of dollars in smart contracts. It has diversified its offerings across other blockchains, notably Solana, Fantom, Polygon, BNB Chain, and others.
In a recent blog post, the team behind the Tulip Protocol explained that they had integrated Chainlink to provide users with more confidence that leveraged positions will be liquidated equitably using extremely accurate price data and that the protocol will continue to be completely collateralized at all times.
According to Tomasz Wojewoda, Head of Global Sales at Chainlink Labs:
“We’re pleased that Tulip Protocol has integrated Chainlink Price Feeds on Solana, helping secure its yield aggregation protocol with highly robust, decentralized market data. With the high-throughput performance of Solana and the strong security guarantees of the Chainlink Network, Tulip Protocol is able to empower users with a performant and secure platform.”
Tulip Protocol Seeks To Take Advantage Of Solana
Tulip Protocol brings together lenders who receive a return on their deposits and borrowers who are interested in gaining access to leverage. Users who initiate leverage positions are responsible for maintaining a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio that has been previously established. The Tulip Protocol then uses the asset price data that is provided by Chainlink Price Feeds to verify that this ratio is accurate. If the value of the collateral falls below the threshold that was established by the protocol, then their position will be immediately liquidated to assist in guaranteeing that the lenders will be repaid.
Tulip Protocol intends to capitalize on Solana by giving users the ability to more regularly reinvest their income and grow their assets without having to pay exorbitant amounts of gas expenses. Chainlink oracles can now be natively integrated on Solana, making it possible for Solana-based applications to benefit from enhanced levels of security and transparency. Yesterday, OpenOcean made the announcement that they would be integrating Chainlink Price Feeds in order to help secure the limited order functionality on many chains. These chains include Avalanche, Ethereum, Polygon, Fantom, and BNB Chain.
According to Senx, Co-Founder of Tulip Protocol:
“We’re excited to be using Chainlink Price Feeds on Solana to help secure our yield aggregation platform. By leveraging the most secure and reliable on-chain data available, we’re able to provide our lenders and borrowers with greater assurances that liquidations are based on accurate price data, and the protocol will maintain a healthy loan-to-value ratio through all market conditions.”
Allowing Stakers To Benefit From Higher APYs
Natives of the blockchain as well as newcomers to the technology are beginning to understand that decentralization does not necessarily equate to a secure platform. Given that Web3 services are currently disclosing their susceptibilities to attacks from both within and outside the network, further initiatives should be undertaken to improve the safety of user assets. Fortunately, a growing number of blockchain businesses are beginning to add various levels of security to their services in order to solidify the trust of their existing customers and attract additional investors in the near and distant future.
Tulip Protocol is the very first yield aggregation platform to be built on Solana, and it features auto-compounding vault techniques. The dApp was developed to make use of Solana’s blockchain, which has a low cost and high efficiency, hence enabling the vault techniques to compound frequently. Stakeholders are able to reap the benefits of greater APYs as a result, without the need for active management.
On this week’s episode of “The Market Report,” Cointelegraph’s resident experts discuss the latest updates concerning the recent Solana (SOL) hack.
To kick things off, we broke down the latest news in the markets this week:
Bitcoin realized price bands form key resistance as bulls lose $24K, significant whale activity between $22,000 and $24,800 adds to the complexity of the current spot market setup. Bitcoin (BTC) consolidated lower on Aug. 9 after familiar resistance preserved a multi-month trading range. When will we finally break out of this price range and make the move towards $30K?
Circle freezes blacklisted Tornado Cash smart contract addresses, Crypto data aggregator Dune Analytics said that, on Monday, Circle, the issuer of the USD Coin (USDC) stablecoin, froze over 75,000 USDC worth of funds linked to the 44 Tornado Cash addresses sanctioned by the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) list. Could this mark the end for Tornado Cash or is there a way they can redeem themselves?
Next up is a new segment called “Quick Crypto Tips,” which aims to give newcomers to the crypto industry quick and easy tips to get the most out of their experience. This week’s tip: Have some funds ready to buy further downturns.
Market expert Marcel Pechman then carefully examines the Bitcoin and Ether (ETH) markets. Are the current market conditions bullish or bearish? What is the outlook for the next few months? Pechman is here to break it down. The experts also go over some markets news to bring you up to date on the latest regarding the top two cryptocurrencies.
After Marcel’s market analysis, our resident experts discuss whether your SOL is safe and the latest updates on the Solana hack. We also discuss why the network has been victim to so many hacks and downtimes. What exactly do these exploits mean for the Solana platform and if you should be worried.
Lastly, we’ve got insights from Cointelegraph Markets Pro, a platform for crypto traders who want to stay one step ahead of the market. The analysts use Cointelegraph Markets Pro to identify two altcoins that stood out this week: Radicle’s RAD and DigiByte’s DGB.
Do you have a question about a coin or topic not covered here? Don’t worry. Join the YouTube chat room, and write your questions there. The person with the most interesting comment or question will be given a 1 month free subscription to markets Pro worth $100!
The Market Report streams live every Tuesday at 12:00 pm ET (4:00 pm UTC), so be sure to head on over to Cointelegraph’s YouTube page and smash those like and subscribe buttons for all our future videos and updates.
Singapore, Singapore , Aug. 09, 2022 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — Today, the ZepetoX team (ZTX, ZepetoX.io) announced its foray into the web3 space, sharing its vision to build an open world that empowers creators and communities to build, play and earn.
ZepetoX is the crypto metaverse initiative jointly incubated by ZEPETO – Asia’s largest metaverse platform with over 320 million registered users – alongside leading global blockchain organizations including Jump Crypto.
As the sole blockchain project comprehensively backed by ZEPETO, ZepetoX will have exclusive ties to ZEPETO in terms of IP including technological, design, and content assets as well as bridges to facilitate user onboarding between the two platforms. ZepetoX’s blockchain development efforts will be advised by Jump.
“ZepetoX is our official venture into the blockchain industry. We feel that web3 opportunities should be advanced through a crypto-native approach, which is why we are excited to have Jump as a contributor to developing a new platform that would have exclusive connections to ZEPETO. Overall, we believe that ZepetoX can build the ideal web3 platform to not only bring blockchain to our existing users but also to expand our footprint in the blockchain space through various disruptive initiatives,” said Daewook Kim, CEO of Naver Z – the operating entity of ZEPETO.
“We are excited to support ZepetoX’s efforts aimed at onboarding new audiences into the rapidly growing crypto space. ZEPETO’s expertise and technological know-hows accumulated over the past years from building an immersive social platform will serve as a springboard for ZepetoX,” said Saurabh Sharma, Partner at Jump Crypto.
Building on the Solana network, ZepetoX will offer a web-based 3D open world with varying levels of gamification integrated as well as opportunities for users to monetize via ownership of digital assets and social interaction. Ultimately, ZepetoX aims to empower self-expression through customizable avatars and lands that can be equipped with NFTs from a rich collection of assets created by diverse creators, DAOs, or communities.
“I am thrilled to see IP powerhouses like ZepetoX choosing to build their metaverse on Solana,” said Anatoly Yakovenko, Co-Founder of Solana. “Projects like ZepetoX create new pathways for onboarding millions of users to web3.”
“Our global team brings a depth of crypto native experiences and our goal is to build on the foundation of ZEPETO to spearhead the adoption of blockchain among metaverse users, developers, and creators,” said co-CEO of ZepetoX, Chris Chang.
In the coming months, ZepetoX will launch its first land sale. The lands will be tradable on the ZepetoX marketplace, which will feature a variety of different NFTs as the open world project evolves. Further details on the sale will be available on the ZepetoX website in the coming weeks.
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About ZepetoX: ZepetoX (ZTX) is a web3 company building an immersive content-driven platform for users to create, trade digital assets and enjoy social interaction. Founded in 2022, ZepetoX is the blockchain initiative of ZEPETO, widely regarded as the largest Asia-based metaverse platform boasting over 320 million lifetime users with over 2.5 billion virtual fashion items sold.