Curaleaf concerns, and other details from New Jersey regulators’ latest meeting.
The meeting of New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission late last week made a few headlines.
The big item was the first-ever awards for annual licensure. So far, hundreds of conditional licenses have been approved (including another 297 at this latest meeting), but this only means that these applicants are moving forward in the process, not that they have licenses to operate. And, many of them have been held up by trying to get municipal approvals, which prompted regulators at this meeting to extend the amount of time their conditional licenses are valid. In the meantime, the only entities up-and-running to serve adult use consumers are the handful of companies that already held medical cannabis licenses, and were allowed to expand into adult use.
A total of 18 annual licenses were awarded during the meeting, which is the “tip of the iceberg,” said CRC executive director Jeff Brown. Ten converted from conditional to annual, and another 8 went straight to annual.
The other news items included a vote to establish a Cannabis Training Academy to “provide technical assistance to entrepreneurs establishing cannabis businesses in New Jersey.” They also voted to raise the social equity excise fee that cultivators pay from $1.10 to $1.52 per ounce.
But there was one moment during the meeting that, while brief, is quite noteworthy. Up for a vote was Curaleaf’s permission to expand its Bordentown medical cannabis shop to adult use sales. Brown noted that Curaleaf has “one of the highest inventories in the state” and is the “second lowest in the medicinal market on pricing,” and ultimately met the requirements for approval.
Next, however, he added, “I’ll note that we are dead serious about ensuring patient access, dead serious about ensuring compliance with the labor provisions. And, if approved, we will have a very vigilant eye on Curaleaf.”
Commissioner Krista Nash took a moment to say “I’m not fully convinced that Curaleaf has made good faith efforts as it relates to our labor provisions.”
Then, Chair Dianna Houenou chimed in, before a vote was held, to say, “I, for one, have also become concerned about some of the actions of this particular entity and its commitments to workers, to safety, and to public health and to patients. There’s a lot of information that staff review related to these certification materials, there’s a lot of information for the commissioners to digest and process as well. I know I need some more time to review some of the material and the information that has been shared. But I do feel your sentiments, Commissioner Nash, that accountability is critical here. And I think this board, if I do say so myself, I think this board really takes its enforcement responsibilities seriously when it comes to making sure that we are setting up an industry that has safe and responsible operators who recognize the importance of our regulations and our rules and adhere to those.”
Houenou abstained, but the approval went through.
Curaleaf has had a relatively high number of violations, according to the CRC’s records.
During the meeting, Brown also shared some interesting numbers. For the first time this year, for example, the number of active medical cannabis patients fell below 120,000, in October. The number of medicinal transactions and amount of medical cannabis sold also fell, but Brown repeatedly emphasized that it’s too soon to tell what the longer-term trends will be.
Regulators also conducted a “pricing investigation” due to “consumer complaints.”
While adult use prices per ounce have remained steady, hovering between $453 and $458, medical use prices have gone up, from $398 in January to $414 in August.
Regulators also looked at cost by retailer, and found that the highest priced retailer for patients is MPX NJ, at $16.96 a gram in August, while the lowest was Harmony Foundation New Jersey, Inc., at $12.57 a gram.
Overall, prices in New Jersey remain higher than in many parts of the country with legal cannabis, though medical cannabis products are still priced lower than adult use products.
Equity entities in NY and NJ push Schumer on SAFE Banking.
The United States Cannabis Council led an effort involving equity licensees and applicants in New York and New Jersey that wrote a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to push for Senate action on SAFE Banking.
“We are small business owners, entrepreneurs, and social equity licensed professionals in the legal cannabis industry,” the letter opens. “We respectfully urge you to address the many barriers communities of color face to enter, grow, and prosper in the cannabis industry by bringing the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act with potential restorative justice provisions for a floor vote.”