The NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) approved 68 adult-use cannabis conditional cultivation and manufacturing licenses.
“This is a historic action the Commission is about to take. These are the very first adult-use licenses the Commission will issue,” NJCRC Executive Director Jeff Brown said.
He had previously noted their goal is to review all applications within 90 days of receiving them.
“We have actually beaten 90 days on some of these applications,” Brown said.
Applications were assigned a priority depending on how they applied. Conditional applications had the highest priority.
Conditional applications were reviewed for completeness on the business plan, regulatory compliance plan, and the plan to obtain liability insurance. Management Services Agreements were reviewed to ensure they were not overtly out of line with regulations.
Brown noted of the NJC approved licenses, 28 percent are black, 9 percent are Hispanic, 8 percent are Asian, 39 percent are White, and 17 percent did not report race. Twelve are women-owned.
The Following Companies Won Licenses
- GRC NJ LLC: Cultivator
- Megaleaf LLC: Cultivator
- Siembra LLC: Cultivator
- Brightside Canopy LLC: Cultivator
- Good Growth NB LLC: Cultivator
- Sweet Side LLC: Cultivator
- Blaze Product LLC: Cultivator
- Denver Cole Farms NJ LLC: Cultivator
- Trenton Equity Holdings LLC: Cultivator
- Veterans for Alternative Medicine South Jersey LLC: Cultivator
- Grotech Farms LLC: Cultivator
- TGC NJ LLC: Cultivator
- Garden Greens LLC: Cultivator
- Cube Garden NJ LLC: Cultivator
- The Fireplace NJ LLC: Cultivator
- Mid-Atlantic Growth LLC: Cultivator
- Piff Industries LLC: Cultivator
- Hamilton Farms LLC: Cultivator
- Blue Harvest LLC: Cultivator
- Agri-kind LLC: Cultivator
- Herb-a-More LLC: Cultivator
- CIRCE MEDEA INC: Cultivator
- Good Lettuce Company: Cultivator
- HarvestWorks Farm Corporation: Cultivator
- Bupkis LLC: Cultivator
- One Faith Wellness LLC: Cultivator
- Circle Garden NJ LLC: Cultivator
- Kana Grove NJ LLC: Cultivator
- August Tenth Capital Investments LLC: Cultivator
- Statewide Property Holdings LLC: Cultivator
- Jersey Gem Farms LLC: Cultivator
- Garden Organics LLC: Cultivator
- Curchin Cannabis LLC: Cultivator
- Noble 1 LLC: Cultivator
- Garden State Recreation Grown LLC: Cultivator
- Peace of Mind Construction Group: Cultivator
- Green Recreational Holdings LLC: Cultivator
- E-quality Cannabis: Cultivator
- Prolific GrowHouse: Cultivator
- Tiaplanta LLC: Cultivator
- Dr. Jae Farms Inc: Cultivator
- Shnicks Snacks: Cultivator
- Bella Bloom Ventures LLC
- ME Cruz LLC: Cultivator
- Eastern Tiger LLC: Cultivator
- Bellegrow LLC: Cultivator
- Cone Garden NJ LLC: Cultivator
- BELEAF LLC: Cultivator
- Strain House LLC: Cultivator
- Loud Wellness LLC: Cultivator
- Sweet Side LLC: Manufacturer
- Piff Industries: Manufacturer
- Megaleaf LLC: Manufacturer
- Sphere Garden NJ LLC: Manufacturer
- Agri-Kind LLC: Manufacturer
- GDBS DISTRIBUTOR LLC: Manufacturer
- Blaze Product LLC: Manufacturer
- Hudson Bloom LLC: Manufacturer
- HarvestWest Farm Corporation: Manufacturer
- Draisy LLC: Manufacturer
- August Tenth Capital Investments LLC: Manufacturer
- Good Lettuce Company: Manufacturer
- Garden Organics LLC: Manufacturer
- BFF MJ: Manufacturer
- Green Recreational Holdings LLC: Manufacturer
- Peace of Mind Construction Group: Manufacturer
- Bella Bloom Ventures LLC: Manufacturer
- Loud Wellness Inc: Manufacturer
Some companies won both cultivation and manufacturing licenses.
“It’s been all hands-on deck. This is the first slate of many,” Brown said.
Conversion to an annual license is a process that is elaborate and includes site approval and municipal approval required, along with SOPs and financial disclosures.
NJCRC Approved Licenses
NJCRC Deputy Executive Director Kelly Anderson-Thomas noted there have been 675 applications for adult-use cannabis licenses received thus far. Of those, 264 licenses were applied for since the dispensary portal opened last week. Of the applications received, 87 percent were for conditional licenses, and 37 percent were for micro licenses. The majority applied for cultivation and retail licenses. Twenty-eight percent are Social Equity applicants. Seventy percent of applicants self-identified as diversely owned.
Commissioner Charles Barker encouraged people to apply for cannabis licenses.
“We are actively working to set a fair and equitable table,” he said. “We need you to come hungry and ready to eat.”
Barker said it is open, “especially for brothers and sisters and communities impacted by the War on Drugs.”
“This marks a huge milestone for New Jersey and the cannabis industry. By not rushing into this process and taking deliberate steps, the CRC has done it the right way,” New Jersey CannaBusiness Association (NJCBA) President Ed DeVeaux. “We are now closer to achieving our goals around legislative and regulatory intent to ensure that social equity and minority and women candidates are prioritized. If this had all been rushed out sooner, we would have been farther away from reaching those goals.”
“Doing things correctly was more important than doing things quickly. New Jersey is on its way, and we look forward to the next round of progress,” he added.
No Expanded ATC Certifications
The NJCRC did not vote to approve adult-use cannabis sales at the existing medical cannabis dispensaries as some had predicted.
Brown said eight certifications had been received from the ten vertically integrated cannabis companies operating the 23 dispensary locations open in New Jersey.
“Getting this market launched is of the highest priority to the community,” he said. “While we may not be 100 percent there today, we can get there. We are almost there.”
They needed town approval, sufficient supply, protect patient care, and plans to address social equity and safety.
Thus there are no NJCRC approved licenses for adult-use sales ready to operate yet.
Brown noted they are working to ensure patients can still access their medicine as the market opens. Those dispensaries that want to sell adult-use cannabis need to pass inspection that they will comply with regulations.
“The overall canopy is still undersupplied from where New Jersey needs to be,” Brown said.
The market is still undersupplied by 100,000 lbs. for the recreational market, he noted. That’s assuming a low demand, which few do.
Brown said all the submitted plans have been faulty thus far.
“We have to solve for the most vulnerable patients here,” he said.
Brown noted their equity plans lack specifics and measurable goals.
“That’s something we want to address,” Brown said.
Labor Peace agreements are being reviewed to ensure no company unions are permitted.
“I’m extremely confident in our ability… to fix these issues,” Brown said.
He said they need the dispensaries to have exclusive patient hours, patient lines, and hotlines to ensure a smooth transition.
“Our regulations state as a condition of licensing is that they must hire people with marijuana convictions and those from Economically Disadvantaged Areas (EDAs),” Brown said. “We want a commitment as part of this process to meet that requirement.”
Brown said they would be sending interdisciplinary teams to inspect the dispensaries to ensure they are ready.
“If things are not there yet, we will schedule additional calls, visits,” he added. “We need the industry to work with us in the factors that still need attention,”
Brown said he expects to approve the adult-use market opening at the next meeting. He also wants them to open home delivery for patients. Home delivery is a long-delayed part of the Jake Honig Act of 2019, which expanded the medical cannabis program.
“While the Commission recognizes the desire of the public to get the personal use up and running, it is a shared responsibility to do so,” Commissioner Krista Nash said.
“It does seem like we are still in the process of determining the ATCs are ready for adult-use sales,” Barker said. “We are right on the cusp of transitioning.”
“We are working appropriately… to advance a marketplace that is developed as right as possible… to set a new regulatory record for the cannabis industry,” he added.
“I would recommend… we highly consider meeting in April to move this market forward,” NJCRC Vice-Chair Sam Delgado said.
Building the Marketplace
The NJCRC does not have a meeting scheduled for April to approve cannabis licenses.
It was noted 184 applications submitted thus far were incomplete.
“We are not denying them,” Anderson-Thomas said.
She said applicants can resubmit the necessary paperwork and still get a license. Issues include a lack of an entity disclosure form, expired government IDs or ID cards with only one side of the license shown, financial source agreements and tax returns from 2021 are missing, other forms are missing signatures and not notarized, and personal history disclosure forms are missing as well.
NJ Medical Cannabis Expansion Progress
Brown explained that one of the 30 dispensaries awarded last December did not accept their award.
“We are recommending to reissue that award,” Brown said.
NJ Kindness did not accept the award. The next highest-scoring applicant in South Jersey was PEMAA LLC, so they won the award.
It was approved 4-1, with Barker dissenting.
The NJCRC approved licenses of 44 awardees announced last year are still being investigated. They have submitted criminal history background checks and other documents to verify their applications. Brown noted their teams working to build out their facilities. He said they would like vertical cultivators operational within 18 months. They expect ownership to remain for a certain period post-award.
“We may be getting closer to getting those cultivators online and serving patients,” he said.
“We have received some requests from the public on data on the industry and the awardees,” Brown said, noting the controversy over a lack of Black ownership in the cannabis industry.
Of the 43 NJCRC approved licenses:
- 8 are Asian owned
- 4 are Black-owned
- 4 are Hispanic owned
- 7 are non-minority owned
- 19 others have a combination of different races or not disclosed
- 2 have no certification
“We are committed to continuing to releasing data as we move forward,” Brown said. “This again is an RFA issued almost 3 years ago… based on old rules, old statues that aren’t on the books anymore. It’s really the floor from where we can go.”
NJCRC Chair Diana Houenou noted they held hearings on social equity recommendations for adult-use cannabis tax revenue.
“Those public hearings, I think, were a success,” she said.
Houenou said recommendations included workforce training, affordable housing, youth services, after-school, substance treatment, parks, libraries, financial assistance to help applicants, and education. Recommendations will be sent to Governor Murphy and the Legislature to address the issue.
She noted they have been working on the job training and developing a tool to help people enter the industry available on the state’s website.
“Access to Capital has been an underlying theme we have heard at the CRC regularly,” Houenou said.
They are working with the NJ Economic Development Authority (EDA) and other private partners to explore potential financial assistance programs.
“We have been examining the possibility of grants and loans,” Houenou said. “As a state agency, the CRC is doing a lot of work to advance equity.”
She praised towns for including social equity in their cannabis implantation plans.
There are few such towns.
Houenou said they hope to see private individuals, landlords, banks, and employers also take care to afford people equal opportunity to participate in the industry.