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N.J. approves new cannabis grow site, but 24 other weed business licenses continue to languish
New Jersey’s cannabis regulators on Tuesday moved to streamline the licensing of new weed businesses and approved another marijuana grow site — but it did not announce the recipients of some two dozen businesses that have sat in limbo for nearly two years.
The state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission met on Tuesday evening to approve the transfer of an existing medical marijuana license, a new marijuana grow site and a system to help it process applications for new cannabis businesses.
All signal the state is gearing up for legal cannabis sales.
The commission unveiled its initial rules to guide the legal weed industry last month. That set the clock ticking down to launch sales to those 21 and older — according to the law, they must start within six months of the commission adopting its regulations.
But the commission gave no word on the 2019 request for applications to operate new medical marijuana facilities. Some 150 entities saw a review of applications paused in late 2019 due to a lawsuit. But a court ruled earlier this year that the commission could resume its evaluation and award those 24 licenses.
So far, the commission has not issued any of the new licenses. Jeff Brown, the commission’s executive director, has said licenses will come soon, but regulators have not given a date by when they will announce the new licenses.
“It is not lost on us that everyone is eager to get to that moving forward, as are we,” Dianna Houenou, the commission’s chair, said during the meeting. She said the commission was working quickly to score them, but emphasized the need to “double” and “triple” check each.
Still, frustration dominated the meeting.
Travis Ally, an applicant from that licensing round, said the commission should not consider expanding cultivation for existing medical marijuana companies while so many are awaiting those licenses.
“It’s borderline absurd at this point,” he said of the delay.
Edmund DeVeaux, president of the New Jersey CannaBusiness Association, criticized the wait, too, saying it would harm small and minority-owned businesses that have poured money into the application process without seeing any returns.
“They are waiting for much anticipated inclusion in the industry that had shut them out for so long and now may see a delay in that process, which is exactly what we did not want to happen. They cannot afford to keep waiting and neither can the state,” he said in a statement. “This delay was highly inconvenient but understandable before. Now, it is totally unacceptable and the state needs to take action immediately.”
Several others criticized the commission throughout the meeting. David Feder implored the commission to shed light on the delays.
“If they’re not going to be releasing them, at least address what the hold up is,” he said.
Despite the opposition, the commission did approve a second marijuana cultivation site in Lafayette for Harmony Foundation of New Jersey, which currently grows and dispenses medical cannabis in Secaucus. The company also has planned to open two additional dispensaries in Hoboken and Jersey City, which could draw customers from New York.
Increasing the supply of marijuana in the state not only helps authorized medical patients to access cannabis, but also gets the industry closer to the legal weed sales start date in February 2022. Currently licensed medical companies can sell to those 21 and older once they pay fees and prove they have enough marijuana to support not only the 114,000 patients in the state, but a recreational market, too.
The commission also voted to transfer ownership of Garden State Dispensary to Ayr Wellness, a company with dispensaries in several states, including Pennsylvania, Nevada and Massachusetts.
Garden State was one of the original six alternative treatment centers licensed in New Jersey. It has three dispensaries in Woodbridge, Eatontown and Union Township.
And finally, the commission voted to begin using NIC Licensing, a technology platform for government entities to process business license applications. Brown said the state has been using it for other licensing needs since 2009.
“This existing state resource will enable us, the commission, to begin accepting license applications sooner than it otherwise would be able to,” he said.
The commission did not say when it would begin to accept licenses for applications, but the cannabis legalization law says it must open open a process within 30 days of adopting its initial rules and regulations. That deadline comes this Saturday, Sept. 18.
A spokeswoman for the commission did not immediately return an email seeking clarification on the deadline to accept new applications.
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