Jefferson to Host Pitch Competition for Budding Marijuana and Hemp Businesses

The university wants to give startups in the industry a boost with a competition that's open to the public and features a $10,000 grand prize.

Potted cannabis plants under artificial lights in an indoor, commercial growth facility located in Oregon. FatCamera | iStock

Thomas Jefferson University’s annual healthcare startup competition is looking to support young  businesses in the marijuana and hemp industry. The event, or JAZ Tank: CannaVation, is the first-ever university-sponsored competition for cannabis-related businesses, and it’s being brought to the public through the school’s Lambert Center for the Study of Medical Cannabis & Hemp.

According to Jefferson, JAZ Tank was created to foster entrepreneurship and innovation, and now, in its fourth year, the competition is looking to do just that for the growing marijuana industry.

People with a business model for a medicinal cannabis or industrial hemp product or service are encouraged to throw their hat into the ring. Participants will present their ideas on October 3, in a Shark Tank-style pitch competition, where they’ll be eligible for prizes.

The grand prize package includes a cash gift of more than $10,000, free legal support and consulting services to advance their business. And in addition to the grand prize winner, up to two other teams may be eligible to win $5,000 in financial support and other free services.

Excitingly, the competition is open to the general public! You don’t have to be affiliated with Jefferson University to apply or present. To be eligible, companies must not have raised more than $100,000 in outside capital and should have at least an established business plan including a five year financial projection, the competition rules state.

The submission deadline was just pushed to Monday, August 20. Those interested in participating can submit applications here.

In 2016, Jefferson received a $3 million donation from Australian philanthropists Barry and Joy Lambert to help fund medical research into cannabis. Dr. Charles V. Pollack Jr. said then that the center’s mission is to “pool the research on medical marijuana, which he believes is the subject of far too much ‘hype and advocacy’ and not enough scientific analysis.”

By 2020, legal cannabis in the United States is expected to become a $22 billion industry, according to the Marijuana Policy Project.

So far, thirty states have legalized marijuana in some form and industrial hemp has been getting more attention recently because of its being touted as a cure-all for multiple health problems.

In 2016, Pennsylvania became the 24th state to legalize medical marijuana when Gov. Tom Wolf signed a bill into law.