The existing New Jersey dispensaries have formed the interest group NJ Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA), ahead of adult-use legalization.
Shaya Brodchandel of Harmony Dispensary chairs the group. They are one of the smaller dispensaries that is a member of the NJCTA.
Susanna Short, a consultant for iAnthus, helped organize the NJCTA. She explained that having represented iAnthus to New York Medical Cannabis Industry Association (NYMCIA), it made sense to form a similar organization in New Jersey.
Short organized a meeting of the 12 medical cannabis license holders prior to COVID. The two issues that wanted to address was adult-use legalization and social equity. Plans for the NJCTA when COVID and the subsequent crises hit.
They first advocated to the NJDOH for curbside pickup, expedited prospective employee screening, and home delivery.
Along with Brodchandel, the officers are Matt Harrel Director of Government Relations for Curaleaf, the Secretary is Jeff Sand, Director of Government Relations of Columbia Care, and Todd Johnson EVP of Justice Grown.
Short said they will be a “unified voice” for their members.
Short said the NJCTA was sidetracked by the pandemic from working on legalization and social equity.
“As we approach legalization, we want to make sure patient needs are met,” Short said.
While the NJCTA has yet to take policy positions, Short said social equity is a passion of hers that needs to be included in the cannabis legalization implementation bill. She thought it important that micro business licenses be included, along with expungements for cannabis convictions, and reinvestment into communities hardest hit by the War on Drugs.
“I’m hopeful that folks can achieve consensus on these types of things,” Short said regarding the NJCTA.
NJCTA as an Interest Group
The NJCTA consists of the dispensaries that have won a license to operate in New Jersey, even if their dispensary is not open yet, as in the last few. Its members are:
- Acreage Holdings
- Green Thumb Industries
- Ascend Wellness/ Greenleaf Compassion Center
- Columbia Care
- Justice Grown
Ascend Wellness is set to acquire the Montclair-based Greenleaf Compassion Center.
Some of the dispensaries have acquired medical cannabis operating licenses but are not yet in operation, such as Justice Grown, set to open in Ewing, and TerrAscend, set to open a dispensary in Phillipsburg.
Some of the dispensaries were previously associated with the NJ Cannabis Industry Association (NJCIA), which is not a branch of the National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA). The NJCIA, though, has not been very active in recent months despite the imminent arrival of adult-use legalization.
It is noteworthy that as a whole, they were not members of the New Jersey Cannabis Business Association (NJCBA).
Polling between 55 and 66 percent, the adult-use cannabis referendum is likely to win by a comfortable margin. Thus, many are seeking to position themselves ahead of time.
While only Acreage has contributed individually to the legalization campaign NJCAN 02020, NJCTA has contributed as a whole they said. They were listed as a sponsor on one of NJCAN’s fundraising webinars.
The Problems With the NJCTA Dispensaries
There is no doubt that the existing dispensaries are benefiting from a lack of competition. The lack of competition allows a company to charge $350 plus tax for an ounce of cannabis. While some dispensaries are better than others, there is widespread agreement that medical cannabis in New Jersey is overpriced and leaves something to be desired in terms of quality.
Many who would otherwise be well-qualified to be patients are subsequently forced to rely on black market cannabis for their medical treatment. There are currently 90,000 patients in New Jersey’s Medical Marijuana Program (NJMMP).
“The DOH is putting millions of dollars in the pockets of the Governor’s friends,” attorney Joshua Bauchner said regarding the New Jersey dispensaries.
He said it makes sense the NJCTA formed since would all like to beat out competition by offering adult-use cannabis first and keep the market small.
Cannabis Hearing Canceled
The New Jersey State Senate Judiciary Committee canceled the public hearing that it had scheduled for yesterday on the adult-use cannabis referendum. Its chair, Nick Scutari (D-Union), was said to have been exposed to COVID and thus could not participate in a public gathering. It also seemed premature.
Because there was no bill attached to the hearing, it was more akin to a town hall and was not going to be the definitive hearing on the legalization implementation bill that was needed. It will likely be rescheduled.