New Jersey’s largest medical marijuana company just got bigger, tripling the amount of cannabis it grows and opening a new dispensary.
Curaleaf on Friday opened its Edgewater Park location. The 7,000 square-foot dispensary is much larger than the company’s original Bellmawr store, and its new 40,000 square-foot cultivation site in Winslow, just completed its first harvest. That’s double the size of the Bellmawr facility.
“We’ve tripled our footprint in the state,” said Bridgette Fonseca, the director of dispensary operations at Curaleaf NJ. “It’s something that’s needed.”
Curaleaf also plans to open a third dispensary in Bordentown later this summer. Under the medical marijuana law, each of the original 12 licensed companies can open up to three dispensaries.
The progress in New Jersey’s medical marijuana program has been slow, but openings picked up this spring after languishing for years. The state made few licenses available under former Gov. Chris Christie, and only a few medical conditions qualified a person to register as a patient.
But when Gov. Phil Murphy took office in 2018, he began to rapidly expand the program. The number of dispensaries has since tripled, but the number of patients grew at a faster rate. There are now more than 112,000 in the state and only 20 open dispensaries.
Patrick Jonsson, the president of Curaleaf’s northeast operations, said months ago he believed Curaleaf could be ready to sell marijuana to those 21 and older by the summer. The company is on track with his prediction, but can’t open to the public until the Cannabis Regulatory Commission gives medical companies the go ahead.
The commission has until Aug. 21 to draft its rules and regulations guiding the legal cannabis industry. The current medical marijuana companies are expected to get the first shot at selling to the legal market, but they must first prove they have enough supply to meet both patient demand and that of recreational customers. It’s not yet clear what the companies must do to meet that benchmark.
Before the expansion, Massachusetts-based Curaleaf was already the leading marijuana producer in the state. It often sells cannabis flower to other dispensaries, but also has a certified lab to make other products tinctures, lozenges, vapes and gummies. Not every dispensary in the state can do that.
The sleek dispensary features display cases of intricate glass bowls and products like infused cocoa butter, gummies, tinctures and oils. A mural of Trenton wraps around the walls.
With its expansion, Curaleaf has added more than 100 jobs, Fonseca said. Most new employees are local.
Fonseca said some people without medical cards are already showing up at the dispensaries looking to purchase. Since Murphy signed two laws to that together decriminalize marijuana possession and outline the legal industry, but the change has led to confusion about whether or not legal weed is for sale.
The Edgewater Park dispensary held a soft opening on Thursday and serviced more than 270 patients, Fonseca said. On Friday, as local officials and dispensary employees cut a ribbon, a line had already formed outside.
The Bellmawr location sees more than 700 patients a day, she said. But its limited parking in a cramped location sandwiched between I-295 and Route 42 in South Jersey has frustrated some patients.
Those daily numbers are all expected to expand if the dispensaries begin selling to people 21 and older. But the towns that house the dispensaries also have a say. They can choose to allow, limit or completely ban cannabis sales to the public by passing ordinances before Aug. 21. If they do nothing, they will opt-in to allowing sales.
Dozens of cities and towns have already decided to ban cannabis businesses for now.
Edgewater Park Mayor Lauren DiFilippo said the town has yet to decide on legal weed, but welcomed the medical dispensary.
“We really didn’t get much pushback [from residents], which is reassuring,” she said.
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