At a meeting of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (the “CRC”) held on August 19, 2021, an initial set of regulations were adopted which will govern the recreational cannabis industry in New Jersey. These are not the full set of regulations that will be needed to govern the industry (e.g. the current regulations do not cover licensing requirements for wholesaler, distributor, or delivery licenses). However, the regulations do mark a major milestone in the path to a legal adult recreational cannabis industry in the State of New Jersey.

Among other things, the adoption of these regulations triggers a 180-day countdown to the day when adult recreational sales are to be permitted in New Jersey. That would be February 15, 2022, which now becomes the outside date for such sales. The date for businesses to first be permitted to apply for licenses in the cannabis industry, however, has not yet been determined. When the CRC decides that it is ready to accept license applications, a notice of that initial application date will be published. No applications will be permitted until at least 30 days after the publication date of that notice. The date for that publication is unknown at the present time. As CRC Chairperson Dianna Houenou stated at the August 19, 2021 meeting of the CRC, the commission will hold off on accepting license applications until it has the ability to “process applications effectively and efficiently”.

The new regulations provide that three types of cannabis businesses will be given priority in the review and approval of their license applications—effectively moving these applications to the “top of the pile” in the review process (jumping ahead of other, even earlier submitted, applications):

On Feb. 22, 2021 Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law the Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act, which established the framework for a legal, adult-use cannabis industry in New Jersey. By some estimates, recreational cannabis may grow to be a billion-dollar industry in the state over the next few years. Many have worried that much of this growing economic pie may be grabbed by large, well-capitalized cannabis companies from out of state that have already established themselves in those other markets where recreational cannabis was legalized earlier than New Jersey.

Enter the microbusiness license.

Per New Jersey’s cannabis licensing laws, a microbusiness is a cannabis business with strong established connections with New Jersey that is subject to certain size and operational limitations. A significant number of licenses to operate in the cannabis industry will be earmarked solely for such microbusinesses. As such, microbusinesses will only need to compete against one another during the application process, rather than needing to compete directly with larger, more established businesses. This potentially gives entrepreneurial start-up companies seeking to delve into the cannabis industry a path forward without getting pushed aside by multi-state operators (MSOs) in the frenzy once New Jersey begins accepting applications.

On December 17, 2020, the New Jersey legislature passed the Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act (the “Act”), providing the framework for legal adult recreational cannabis use in New Jersey.  The Act lays out the ground rules for licensing arrangements for the cultivation, packaging, distribution, advertising, and retail sale of recreational cannabis to persons 21 years old or older.  Governor Murphy signed the legislation into law on February 22, 2021.

It is important to note that the passage of the Act does not immediately make “street pot” legal—instead, it provides the roadmap for businesses to become licensed so that they may take part in the future legal adult recreational cannabis market in New Jersey.  Cannabis, however, will no longer be a Schedule 1 controlled dangerous drug under New Jersey law (although it remains so at the Federal level).

Although the Act is over 200 pages long, it still requires that the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (“CRC”) develop regulations to flesh out the details of how these arrangements will all be put into practice.  For example, there are currently no application forms to apply for any license to operate in the cannabis market in New Jersey.  These forms, their instructions, and a host of other details all need to be developed before any business can apply for one of the required licenses.  The CRC has been given 180 days to develop these enabling regulations and forms.  That said, individuals and businesses interested in entering into this market will want to keep apprised of the details of these ongoing regulatory developments so that they can position themselves to have already put arrangements in place which will allow them to immediately move forward with the application process as soon as it becomes available.

After receiving numerous complaints about the complexity of the loan forgiveness application form under the Paycheck Protection Program, the SBA and U.S. Department of Treasury on June 16, 2020 approved simplified versions of the forgiveness application.   The original loan forgiveness application was 11 pages long, but now many borrowers under the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) will be eligible to apply for forgiveness under a newly streamlined EZ version of the application which is only 3 pages long.  Borrowers that cannot qualify to use the EZ version will be able to instead now use a 5-page SBA Form 3508.

To qualify for use of the EZ form, a borrower must be able to fit within at least one of the following three categories:

1. The borrower is a self-employed individual, independent contractor, or sole proprietor who had no employees at the time of the PPP application and did not include any employee salaries in the computation of average monthly salaries in the application.

On March 27, 2020, the $2 Trillion federal stimulus act known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES Act”) was enacted, providing among other things for $349 Billion in funding for forgivable loans to small businesses to assist in funding payroll and certain other expenses during the current coronavirus pandemic. The “Paycheck Protection Loans” are available to businesses with under 500 employees who had employees on payroll as of February 15, 2020 (and certain other businesses and nonprofit organizations specified in the CARES Act). Here is the basic summary.

Implementation: The CARES Act requires that final implementing regulations must be issued within 15 days after enactment (i.e. by April 11, 2020). Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin has said that he will look to have the application process implemented by April 3, 2020 (with a potential one day approval process). Loans can be made by any bank authorized to make SBA loans, and there is authority granted to allow other FDIC bank to make such loans even if they have not previously done SBA loans. Loans must be applied for by no later than June 30, 2020, but obviously sooner is better than later.

Loan Amount: The amount that can be borrowed is capped at the lesser of (i) $10 Million or (ii) 2.5 times the average monthly payments for “payroll costs” over the 12 months before applying for the loan. Payroll costs means payments of any compensation with respect to (i) salaries or similar compensation, (ii) vacation, parental, family, medical, or sick leave (other than those covered by certain other recent coronavirus response Federal laws), (iii) allowance for dismissal or separation, (iv) payments for the provision of group healthcare benefits, including insurance premiums, (v) payment of any retirement benefit, and (vi) payment of State and local taxes assessed on the compensation of employees. The excess portions of an employee’s compensation in excess of the $100,000 level does not count in the above calculation, nor do taxes imposed or withheld under chapters 21, 22, or 24 of the Internal Revenue Code.

Robert Anderson, a shareholder at Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper and a member of the firm’s Cybersecurity & Data Privacy practice group was recently questioned by Tom Hughes of ROI-NJ, regarding the reasons a business should consult an attorney to oversee cybersecurity planning and preparation.  In short; the answer is: attorney-client privilege.

If you have a breach and your company gets sued — and it will, Anderson said — having all of your preparation protected could result in huge savings of both money and reputation. Anderson, speaking at a recent ROI-NJ Thought Leadership Series panel, explained how. “When you’re first starting to put together a program to protect your company, one of the things that you will typically want to do is hire someone called an ethical hacker, who will try to get into your system,” he said. “The results of this kind of a penetration testing that determines the vulnerabilities and weaknesses in your system will be in a report that goes on for pages and pages of all the problems in your system. If you do end up with an attack and end up in litigation, Exhibit A in the litigation is going to be this detailed report that shows all the vulnerabilities of your system, and they’ll be able to see how you elected to prioritize the problems. “The litigants are then going to say you knew you had these vulnerabilities and spot the one you didn’t fix.” Having legal counsel order the penetration test would likely shield that document by virtue of attorney-client privilege, Anderson said.

You may visit ROI-NJ to read the full article or download a copy here.

Robert Anderson was quoted in a recent article published by ROI-NJ regarding the current merger market.

“What’s making deals successful right now is the fact that, when the acquisitions are made, it’s in the context of a very good economy,” he said. “Even if you don’t find that operations are ideal at the company you’ve acquired, the fact that the economy itself is so strong — that tends to pull companies along regardless.”

You may read the full article here.

In ROI-NJ’s recent article, Robert Anderson suggests the potential for the talk of trade wars to permeate other sectors of the economy, potentially adversely impacting other business segments.  Worst case, this could make for a stifling of the free-for-all in business buying and selling that’s going on currently.

To read the full article online click here.

Robert Anderson, chair of Lindabury’s Mergers and Acquisitions group was recently interviewed by ROI-NJ in regards to the recently increase in M&A activity.  Bob has indicated that the the last nine months have been his busiest of the past 30 years.

To read the full article online, click here.

If you are not already thinking about cybersecurity for your company or firm, you should be. Regardless of your organization’s size or industry, cyber crime is probably the greatest threat to your bottom line today.

One of the most important things a company/firm can do is to regularly conduct an investigation to understand what its cybersecurity defense weaknesses and vulnerabilities may be. The results of such an investigation most likely will produce a lengthy list of potential problem areas that in an ideal world should all be promptly and exhaustively remedied. Many times, this remedial approach is not feasible as most companies have budgetary and other practical limitations that may require them to prioritize which vulnerabilities to address first, and the degree of remediation of each such vulnerability that can reasonably be undertaken at a given time.

Unfortunately, another problem with this scenario is that the company or firm will end up with a written report identifying all variety of cybersecurity weaknesses, and then a set of actions that address some — but not all — of those weaknesses. If, at a later date, the organization experiences a cyber breach incident, this written report is likely to become Exhibit A of any plaintiff action against the company over that breach. The report, after all, shows that the company or firm clearly knew about certain vulnerabilities and chose not to remedy several of them.

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