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NJCRC OKs 71 Cannabis Licenses, Curaleaf Rec License Renewal Denied

The NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) approved 71 cannabis licenses and failed to renew Curaleaf’s adult-use cannabis license due to labor and social equity issues.

NJCRC Executive Director Jeff Brown said it’s five years since they began expanding the medical cannabis program under Governor Phil Murphy (D).

“We’ve come a long way. We have a much longer way to go,” he noted.

Approving NJ Cannabis Licenses

The NJCRC approved 62 conditionals, three conversions to annual licenses, which allows them to open, and six annual applications for 71 New Jersey cannabis licenses.

“Over 207 conditional to conversion applications have been submitted that are being reviewed,” Brown said.

He explained it averages seven weeks for conditional to annual conversion applications to be reviewed.

“We’re working on efficiency to get that down even more, adding more staff,” he claimed.

NJ Conditional Cannabis Licenses Approved

1 2738 E-Quality Cannabis Cultivator Microbusiness

2 2546 Stargreen Grow LLC Cultivator Microbusiness

3 2686 Stockbox LLC Cultivator Microbusiness

4 2701 Celestial Garden Cultivator Standard

5 2772 Fader Farms, LLC Cultivator Standard

6 2744 Garden State Cannabis Greenery Cultivator Standard

7 2708 Grateful Med Dispensary, Inc. Cultivator Standard

8 2716 Green Growth Cultivation Cultivator Standard

9 2699 Halsey Farms LLC Cultivator Standard

10 2704 Heritage Cannabis Farms LLC Cultivator Standard

11 2788 NJ Green Therapeutics Cultivator Standard

12 2163 River Growers NJ LLC Cultivator Standard

13 2665 E.V.LLC Manufacturer Microbusiness

14 2243 Matha Lab Inc Manufacturer Microbusiness

15 2687 Stockbox LLC Manufacturer Microbusiness

16 2669 TLEHL Inc Manufacturer Microbusiness

17 1791 West Orange Farms Manufacturer Microbusiness

18 1373 Astronaut Planet World, LLC Manufacturer Standard

19 2702 Celestial Garden Manufacturer Standard

20 2768 Fader Farms, LLC Manufacturer Standard

21 2706 Grateful Med Dispensary, Inc. Manufacturer Standard

22 2787 Heritage Cannabis Farms LLC Manufacturer Standard

23 2164 River Growers NJ LLC Manufacturer Standard

24 2697 Atlantic Flower Retailer Microbusiness

25 2732 Cosmic Garden Retailer Microbusiness

26 2736 Endure Exotics LLC Retailer Microbusiness

27 2458 Green Earth Products LLC Retailer Microbusiness

28 2661 Green Sky Cannabis Dispensary LLC Retailer Microbusiness

29 2725 Miss Moxie Inc. Retailer Microbusiness

30 1897 Muncheez n Stuff Retailer Microbusiness

More NJ Conditional Cannabis Licenses OKed

31 2240 New Jersey Cannabis Club Retailer Microbusiness

32 2612 POTUS Franklin Retail LLC Retailer Microbusiness

33 2749 Reflectionzen Retailer Microbusiness

34 2159 Slamn Sammys LLC Retailer Microbusiness

35 2658 Station 973 Retailer Microbusiness

36 2650 Straight Gas Boys Retailer Microbusiness

37 2226 The Weed Store Retailer Microbusiness

38 2720 Blaze Green LLC Retailer Standard

39 2745 Blaze NJ LLC Retailer Standard

40 2734 Canna Source LLC Retailer Standard

41 2785 Celestial Garden Retailer Standard

42 2786 Citi Roots LLC Retailer Standard

43 2675 Club 420 LLC Retailer Standard

44 2711 East Coast Cannabis Club LLC Retailer Standard

45 2540 Enclave Market LLC Retailer Standard

46 2731 Flame & Flower LLC Retailer Standard

47 2726 Ganja Babe Retailer Standard

48 2696 Green Torch LLC Retailer Standard

49 2759 HerbloCo. Retailer Standard

50 2795 High Times Dispensary Retailer Standard

51 2591 Machu Picchu Cannabis LLC Retailer Standard

52 2776 Magic Garden Botanicals LLC Retailer Standard

53 2700 Releaf Newton LLC Retailer Standard

54 2676 Sky High Buddha LLC Retailer Standard

55 2715 Sky High Green LLC Retailer Standard

56 2685 Sourland Provisions LLC Retailer Standard

57 2694 Starbuds Dispensary LLC Retailer Standard

58 2679 Toasted New Jersey LLC Retailer Standard

59 2678 Tranquility Dispensary LLC Retailer Standard

60 2707 Turpz LLC Retailer Standard

61 2572 Weed Wagoneers Retailer Standard

62 2631 Your High-ness Retailer Standard

The NJCRC approved them 5-0.

Conditional Conversion Licenses Approved

1 2460 Organic Farms, inc. Retailer Microbusiness

2 2520 Simply Pure Trenton NJ Inc Retailer Standard

3 2532 The Cannabis Place 420 Corp Retailer Standard

The NJCRC approved them 5-0. The room exploded in celebration at the announcement, which Chair Dianna Houenou gaveled to silence.

Annual Licenses Approved

1 193 Paratus Enterprises LLC Cultivator Standard

2 2067 Conservatory Cannabis Company LLC Retailer Standard

3 2086 Elevated Essence LLC Retailer Standard

4 1732 Green Knight Cannabis LLC Retailer Standard

5 2257 Rollin’ Green LLC Retailer Standard

6 2110 Highgrade Labs of New Jersey Testing Standard

Equity Issues Remain

“I know we’re looking to increase the trend of more applications being proposed that reflect diversity and inclusion, that represents communities most targeted (by the War on Drugs). We have a limited selection. Zero owned of these six are owned by Hispanics,” Commissioner Charles Barker said. “I’m hopeful… we can better understand not seeing Black and Hispanic majority-owned businesses not being proposed for annual and conversion awards.”

Brown said they would have exact data in June. He explained that 65 percent of conversion and annual awardees identified as minority-owned.

“Most of these minority-owned businesses are funded by very wealthy White individuals. I understand there is a lack of funds. Hopefully, the EDA money will hope some. I don’t know if we can call this true equity ownership. I’m not so sure of what the answer is. We are cognizant of it,” Commissioner Krista Nash said to applause.

“The CRC… has no weight and can’t control or who applies. Nor can we control who decides to partner with others for funding. We have done a great job of working with the  NJ Economy Development Authority to make grants available.” Houenou said. “There’s a limit to what we as government can do to shape those private business decisions.”

She hoped they would see more minority-owned businesses self-funding.

“I share your concern,” Houenou admitted.

The NJRC approved them 4-1, with Barker voting no.

New Jersey Adult-use Cannabis License Renewal

The vertically integrated New Jersey adult-use cannabis dispensary, cultivation, and manufacturing licenses of Acreage CCF, Ascend New Jersey, Columbia Care New Jersey, LLC, Curaleaf, Green Thumb Industries Rise, TerrAscend NJ, and Verano NJ were up for renewal.

They are all large cannabis corporations that are Multi-State Operators (MSOs) large run by white men.

“There’s certainly been some infractions over the course of the last year. They’ve been issued violations, penalized, and appropriately course-corrected,” Brown said.

He claimed there are no significant medical cannabis patient access issues.

“New Jersey is proud to be one of the few states that monitors diversity, equity, and inclusion,” NJCRC Diversity and Inclusion Director Wesley McWhite said.

McWhite noted they achieved it through hiring minorities and those from Economically Developing Areas, working with minority-owned contractors, donating to non-profits and minority business organizations, holding expungement clinics, supporting other cannabis companies, and volunteering at non-profits.

“Many do have areas that need improvement,” he noted. “It is the responsibility of the expanded ATCs to keep us updated regarding the initiatives they placed in their original equity plan.”

He challenged MSOs to do even more. McWhite wanted them to help minority-owned companies more as well.

“The burden is on this office to collaborate with the industry,” he noted. “We have so much more room to grow and to accomplish.”

Commissioner Maria Del Cid-Kosso noted they have a forthcoming Social Equity Report card being released at the next meeting in June.

Curaleaf NJ Adult-use Cannabis License Denied

Curaleaf representatives argued for the renewal of their New Jersey adult-use cannabis license.

“We’re proud of the services we’ve provided New Jersey residents,” one of them said.

They claimed they created 500 jobs and contributed to millions in cannabis tax revenue.

Del Cid-Kosso asked for the size of their social equity budget.

A Curaleaf representative said the company has a $1 million budget for Social Equity nationally.

Labor Issues with Closed Cultivation Site

Del Cid-Kosso said facility modifications when they closed their Bellmawr cultivation site were not noted in the paperwork.

“Were you contemplating these changes?” she asked.

A Curaleaf representative said there wasn’t much demand for the products made at the facility. He claimed their other facility was better.

“There have been some concerns raised about the accuracy of the certification materials. Have any Curaleaf employees been laid off?” Houenou asked.

“In Bellmawr, every employee who was impacted by that reduction was offered another position if they were eligible,” a Curaleaf employee argued.

He claimed five were not eligible.

“There was a reduction of the workforce already?” Houenou asked. When were those employees notified of a reduction?

“Last month,” he said.

“I’d like more information on what I just asked the gentlemen. Until then, I’m going to abstain,” Del Cid-Kosso said.

“There have been significant questions raised by… my colleagues,” Houenou declared.

She noted Nash also referenced several labor problems.

UFCW union leader Hugh Giordano told Heady NJ the Bellmawr workers were fired for being pro-union.

“I am concerned about the layoff announcement that was apparently made a month ago before any information was provided to the Commission. Those changes speak to Commissioner Del Cid-Kosso’s line of questioning,” Houenou explained. “It seems there’s a lot of information still missing. My vote is to abstain.”

Thus, the NJCRC failed to renew them in a 1-2-2 vote. Vice Chair Sam Delgado voted yes. Barker and Del Cid-Kosso voted no. Houenou and Nash abstained.

Ascend Renewed Except for Montclair Dispensary

Nash asked the Acreage representative where they stood since their workers wanted to unionize.

An Acreage representative said they met with the union 15 times.

“We had a 200-day deadline. What happened there?” Nash asked.

“We’ve been trying to meet the regulations. Anytime there’s a first contract, it does take some time since you’re starting from scratch,” she replied.

Nash asked them to notify the NJCRC if the process is further delayed.

The Acreage representative said they are still dividing the $19 million program with different non-profits.

“New Jersey has a long history of protecting workers’ rights. The legislators explicitly included language… to maintain a Labor Peace Agreement as a condition of licensure,” Nash declared. “Some companies have deviated from the labor requirements. Some have unfair labor practices. We have heard from workers. These practices signal a blatant disregard for workers. This is unacceptable.”

They were approved 3-1-1, with Barker voting no and Nash abstaining.

According to Brown, Ascend’s Montclair cannabis dispensary will not be allowed to continue to sell adult-use cannabis until sufficient paperwork is submitted.

The NJCRC approved them 4-1, with Barker voting no.

Columbia Care Rec Cannabis License Renewed

Kelly Rivera of Columbia Care was proud they had not violated their patient access provisions, including exclusive patient hours, patient parking spots, easy ordering, and no patients having to wait.

Nash again asked about their union relationship.

“I’ve been informed the negotiations are active and productive. I can’t speak to when that will happen,” Rivera replied.

They were approved 3-1-1, with Barker voting no and Nash abstaining.

“I do strongly encourage Columbia Care to work with Director McWhite to make sure the information that is being requested is provided. There is not a favorable outlook on the efforts documenting social equity work you’re doing,” Houenou said.

GTI Rise Renewed

A representative from GTI Rise touted their medical cannabis program, including home delivery. She argued being based in Paterson was social equity-minded. She added 65 percent of their employees are minorities or women.

Nash noted their labor issues.

“We feel we are close to a resolution,” the GTI Rise replied about negotiating with the union.

The NJCRC renewed them 4-1, with Barker voting no.

TerrAscend, which operates the Apothecarium, was next. They were renewed 3-1, with Barker and Nash voting no.

Verano NJ Zen Leaf said they were one of the biggest growers in New Jersey. They touted helping minority-owned companies with supply. They also touted their staff was fully unionized. The NJCRC renewed their license 4-1, with Barker voting no.

Medical Cannabis Companies Eager to Switch to Adult-use Cannabis Sales

MPX, Sweetspot, Valley Wellness, and Holistic Solutions were approved to sell adult-use cannabis.

Brown noted they need sufficient supply, municipal approval, and the ability to ensure patient access, social equity, and safety.

The NJCRC voted 4-1 to approve MPX, with Barker voting no, 5-0 to approve Sweetspot, and 5-0 to approve Holistic Solutions.

Conditional Licensing Issues

Del Cid-Kosso explained their conditional extension request process. She explained all license winners must apply for an extension 15 days before the deadline. Del Cid-Kosso noted the need for thorough documentation, which usually requires follow-up.

“Some of these LOIs (Letters of Intent) they submitted have fallen through. We have to acknowledge they have a competitive real estate market. That’s due to local caps and municipalities that have yet to opt-in,” she said.

Del Cid-Kosso noted many towns created cannabis board approval processes.

“Some of these local boards have different meeting dates. It is slowing down the process,” she explained.

“The lack of sufficient funding is still a significant issue for entrepreneurs. NJEDA just launched their cannabis grant program. There are some webinars out there,” Del Cid-Kosso added.

“It really is slowing things down. We encourage you (towns) to keep things simple. The CRC has put guidance on our website that can help municipalities avoid having to recreate the wheel,” Houenou said.

“The conditional licenses are only valid for a certain period of time,” she declared. “It just becomes very difficult for our business owners to keep with the municipal timelines and the limited duration of the conditional license.”

The Botanist Flees Atlantic City

Brown said The Botanist wants to leave Atlantic City for Pennsauken.

“I don’t believe a patient transition plan has been provided,” Barker said. “We’re proposing to potentially approve an applicant and then get their transition plan.”

“Staff’s recommendation is that they request Acreage to provide patient transition plans. We could amend the resolution to make it very clear it’s provided they submit an adequate patient transition plan,” Houenou said.

“That’s the intent here. Thankfully, there are more medicinal locations in Atlantic City now. Taking care of patients is our number one priority,” Brown said.

“There was a rejection of a patient plan. I haven’t seen anything since then. We get the plan, ensure it’s adequate for patients before voting on a matter,” Barker said.

“I don’t believe we rejected any plan. We’re asking for a detailed plan,” Brown replied.

“There seems to be a disconnect,” Barker said.

Houenou explained that the new location must be set up before a permit is issued.

Brown said there are two other medical cannabis dispensaries in Atlantic City. He said they still want to help patients transition.

Houenou noted labor requirements that would need to be addressed before final approval versus their conditional approval.

The NJCRC approved it 4-1, with Barker voting no.

Houenou explained the patient plan must satisfy their staff, and a labor agreement must remain in place.

MPXNJ Second Location

MPXNJ wants to open a second location in Gloucester Township.

This would be the first of their satellites. Their first was in Atlantic City.

“They are close if they have not already passed inspection of this facility,” Brown noted.

The NJCRC approved it 4-1, with Barker again voting no.

NJCRC Chair’s Report

“Yesterday marketed the second anniversary of the n j crc’s launch,” Houenou noted to applause. “The last2 years have seen tremendous changes in the cannabis landscape. We’ve worked with the pub to dev rules for every class of licensure for cannabis businesses.”

She said they tripled the number of medical cannabis and adult-use sales and launched the New Jersey adult-use cannabis industry.

“Setting up this industry has been and continues to be a process. That’s a process that should not be rushed,” Houenou declared. “We are already seeing a diverse and inclusive recreational and medical market take shape. There is still a lot of room to grow.”

Houenou noted the May meeting was canceled to give them time to review applications.

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