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Vertically Integrated Cannabis License Winner Denied Bid to Operate in Small Town

After winning a vertically integrated cannabis license, Altus New Jersey LLC was denied the approval of their cultivation facility in Alexandria.

Last year, they won a license to be a vertically integrated medical cannabis company in Central Jersey. A vertically integrated cannabis license allows a company to grow, manufacture, and sell medical cannabis to customers and other companies and, in theory, deliver cannabis. Cannabis advocates pushing for a market with social equity and opportunity for small businesses do not view that business model favorably.

Altus is part of a larger vertically integrated cannabis corporation that is a Multi-State Operator (MSO) with dispensaries in Utah and cultivation facilities in Missouri. One of the individuals listed as leaders on the application initially was Bob Pease. He is running Franklin Bioscience, which is a subsidy of the MSO Jushi Holdings Inc. Franklin runs the many Beyond Hello medical dispensaries in Pennsylvania.

They had applied to operate a cultivation facility in Alexandria Township in Hunterdon County as part of the 29-month 2019 Medical Cannabis Request for Application (RFA) that ended last month.

Initially, things were going in the favor of the vertically integrated cannabis company. Alexandria was going to allow them to base their cultivation within their limits when they first applied.

Altus had planned for their main medical cannabis dispensary to be in Flemington, NJ, which is also in Hunterdon County, and a more progressive place.

At the last NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) meeting, the Maryland-based company Curio Wellness, one of the losers of the 2019 RFA, tried to appeal their decision and claim Altus was not woman-owned and therefore did not qualify for the points they needed to win their license. The CRC denied Curio’s appeal.

Opposing a Vertically Intergrated Cannabis Company

However, after an outpouring of opposition from locals, the company can no longer be based there. The opposition had been growing there for some time. More than 50 people spoke out against having a cannabis facility near their homes.

Making matters worse, there were only a few places in town the council was going to allow a cannabis company in the first place, and they came with restrictions that were impossible to comply with.

A range of baseless complaints were made by locals who said they might be able to smell cannabis from their homes and that it would harm the scenery of their rural setting and increase traffic. There is also the persistent notion that it would bring in violence and organized crime.

A small town with less than 5,000 people, Alexandria has already opted out of adult-use sales.

Organized opposition is why more grassroots organizing and lobbying needs to be done. Often, a vertically integrated cannabis company with the means to apply for such a license can afford a well-connected lobbyist who can get an ordinance passed.

Nature’s Touch, a company that won a dispensary license in the 2019 RFA, had to move from Closter, NJ in Bergen County to Hoboken in Hudson County due to a similar situation.

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