A grow room in Curaleaf’s cultivation facility in Southern New Jersey. Credit: Mike Fourcher / Grown In

The delay in adult use cannabis in New Jersey is no longer, with the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission approving alternative treatment centers for sales last week. 

The state wasted no time after authorizing the alternative treatment centers to prepare for adult use, announcing April 21 as the official start date just a few days later. 

NJ CRC Director Jeff Brown had given an estimate of 30 days, “More or less” during the CRC meeting for approval on April 11. Chair of the CRC, Dianna Houenou added that the alternative treatment centers were, “Not authorized to begin immediately.” The announcement of a start date wasn’t expected until May, but came through a Tweet from Gov. Phil Murphy late afternoon on Thursday.

“We have been working closely with the CRC to assure them that the transition to adult-use will not alter Curaleaf’s commitment to our medical patients, who have been the heart of our program for the last six years,” said Matt Darin, President of Curaleaf. “We will continue to prioritize the medical program having an adequate supply of product and we are prepared to serve the expanded adult use without any interruption to the medical supply chain.”

Darin spoke for Curaleaf during last week’s meeting, in which an official from each ATC presented its plans for expansion into adult use. Curaleaf, which operates more dispensaries than any other company, was able to appease the CRC with its plans to expand parking, designated spots for medical patients, including two patient-only hours per day and have separate line access for patients in each dispensary in New Jersey – common practices in many other adult-use states. Darin says the company tripled its cultivation capacity to meet market needs.

“There is a tremendous amount of excitement around this launch,” said Darin. “This is an exciting step that will increase access to cannabis, destigmatize the plant, generate much needed tax revenue, jobs and business opportunities for the communities most impacted by the war on drugs.

“New Jersey has the potential to be one of the biggest cannabis markets in the country, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

Curaleaf has no current plans for further expansion in the state according to Darin, which will have just 18 dispensaries via the seven ATC’s at launch. Consumers will likely need to wait until the end of 2022 or early 2023 to see independently owned businesses launch dispensaries to fill in the gaps due to the time it takes to apply and be awarded a license and then open a store front.

“New Jersey has the potential to be one of the biggest cannabis markets on the East Coast,” said Darin. “Right now we are focused on launching adult sales in our three existing dispensaries and ensuring we provide excellent service to both the medical and new adult use consumers.”

In the lead up to launching adult use sales, the CRC apparently pushed ATCs to make minor adjustments in preparation for increased consumer demand. Acreage Holdings locations in Egg Harbor and Williamstown will be using the first two hours in the morning on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for patient-only access, along with the last two hours in the evening on Tuesday and Thursday. Columbia Care dispensaries have plans in place for three medical patient-only checkout lanes and express pickup. Mike Conway, regional Vice President for Ascend Wellness, said patients will have front of the line access and allocated parking for patients and those with disabilities.

“We will have separate menu systems for adult use and medical and that will allow us to set thresholds,” said Brian Sickora, General Manager at Acreage Holdings, regarding the expected influx of new customers to The Botanist dispensaries. “If we drop to certain levels, we can drop it from the adult use menu. We will set those thresholds based on historical buying patterns.

“We will adjust as demand requires.”