Before we get started… we’d like to make sure everyone saw our survey last week. We’re looking at the possibility of creating a virtual job fair event to serve the cannabis community. We’re looking for your feedback in this 3-minute survey.
For this week’s issue, we have a focus on consumers.
How New Jersey residents choose to interact with the industry and how many come forth will drive a lot of the decisions that are made on the municipal, workforce and lobbying front.
Interacting with the cannabis space will be a mixture of old and new faces that are entering a new culture that is steadily becoming mainstream.
As old and new consumers alike enter that space, what their expectations are and the accompanying factors that surround what the industry wants to do with those expectations will be a cornerstone of influence within the cannabis industry.
For the lead, Amanda Hoover reports about an issue that affects all consumers: Towns banning cannabis. Which towns will or won’t, and the complexities ahead for those who decide to do an initial ban, but want to get involved later down the road is explored in her article. (In case you missed it, our colleague Tennyson Donyéa scoped out the debate in the City of Orange last week.)
Sue Livio’s article provides insight into how workers’ compensation can change in the wake of cannabis legalization and what could be on the horizon for employees who decide to become consumers.
What’s also important to keep in mind is how institutions themselves consume the idea of legalized cannabis and form around it.
Within that very framework from D.C, Jonathan Salant gives insight into GOP lawmakers who want cannabis removed from the federal ban, which would open the market up to all consumers.
Meanwhile, I focused on how CBD sleep products have fared post-pandemic. We also have a great lineup of Q&As, including with a company that’s investing its future into THC infused seltzer drinks, and with Art Hance, founder of Hance Construction, who offers advice to would-be license-holders on the importance of building the right facilities.
Dawson, Peoples-Stokes and Kirshenbaum
Speaking of Hance Construction, the Washington Township, N.J.-based company is our title sponsor for our our May and June events.
Next Thursday (May 20) we’re hosting a half-day conference NY Cannabis Insider Live featuring New York Assembly Majority Leader Crystal Peoples-Stokes, cannabis rockstar Dasheeda Dawson, and newly added speaker Lizzie Kirshenbaum, the Regional Government Affairs manager at Weedmaps. (The trio are pictured above).
Learn more about this event and all our incredible speakers, sponsors and partners here. NJ Cannabis Insider members should use promo code nysub for discounted entry. Some 200 people have already signed up for next week’s event.
And don’t forget to use your early-bird code for our June 8-9 conference is early0608.
Panels we’re producing, include:
- The importance of designing the right cannabis space
- The ins and outs of micro-licenses
- Preparing and identifying the future workforce
- What’s in store for banking and financing
For this event, our social equity partner is the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association, who is sponsoring tickets for 20 qualified social equity applicants as well as producing a series of educational virtual events around essential topics, such as choosing the right location, dispensary, cultivation and manufacturing plans, regulatory compliance and more. We hope to announce our most of featured speakers next week.
If you’re interested in sponsorship or speaking opportunities for our June conference or future events, reach out to Enrique Lavin or Kristen Ligas.
Until next week…
— Jelani Gibson
Map of New Jersey illustration by Canva
To ban or not to ban? Why municipalities should be flexible about their decisions, insiders say
As cities and towns continue to roll out ordinances regulating cannabis business within their borders, some are taking the cautious route, banning everything until they see how it works in other cities and towns and thinking they might revisit down the road.
But those ordinances might not be as flexible as some think. Sean Mack, an attorney with Pashman Stein Walder Hayden, said there’s some confusion around municipalities changing their ordinances past the six-month deadline.
“The thought process on how the appeal is going to work is flawed,” he said. The towns think, ‘we ban everything now, then we change our minds later, so now we want to allow things.’ You have to repeal your opt-out ban. Now, you’re back in a situation where your town does not have a duly adopted law by Aug. 21 to ban certain cannabis businesses.
Municipalities have until Aug. 21 to opt-in or opt-out of cannabis regulations for businesses. Those that do nothing will lock in a standard set of rules for five years.
Cities and towns that previously banned or allowed medical cannabis will have to make new rules under the legalization law. Maplewood welcomed The Apothecarium’s grand opening last Friday, but Mayor Frank McGehee did not say if the town will allow it to become an adult-use dispensary.
“I think we will continue to be thoughtful about being a forerunner in cannabis,” he told me last week.
John Fanburg, an attorney with the cannabis practice at Brach Eichler, said he believes towns will be able to change their minds after opting out by Aug. 21 and pass a new ordinance on the number of dispensaries or cannabis businesses. But the final word on the issue will likely have to come from the Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
“The commission will be at some point proposing regulations to put meat on the bones of the statute,” Fanburg said.
Jeff Brown, executive director of the CRC, has urged cities and towns to wait until they see the regulations before acting. But the CRC also has an Aug. 21 deadline to unveil its regulations, colliding with the deadline for municipalities to act.
When asked about the confusion, Toni-Anne Blake, a spokeswoman for the CRC, issued the following statement:
“The CRC is tasked with setting up broad regulations regarding the cannabis industry and, where appropriate, provide general guidance about implementing the regulations,” she said in an email. “That said, we can’t provide specific legal advice to municipalities about their obligations under statute, what actions to take, or when to take action.”
The New Jersey State League of Municipalities, which has been advising its members on such issues, has its own interpretation of the law.
“Our interpretation is that the only time a five-year lock-in period is triggered is when the municipality fails to adopt an ordinance prohibiting a particular license class within 180-days of the passage of the law,” Michael Cerra, executive director of the League, said in an email.
Mack said towns might want to take advantage of the time they have now and develop an ordinance that really works for their town. They could designate certain commercial zones where dispensaries would be allowed or put a limit on the total number instead of issuing an outright ban.
“Towns should be thinking about this now,” he said. “Some towns are doing polls of their community. What are people’s concerns? Do they want limits on anything? Taking advantage of the time before [Aug. 21] where you’ve got very broad authority to adopt restrictions and rules that make sense for your town.”
— Amanda Hoover | NJ.com
Marijuana plants are seen at a cultivation facility
Pandemic causes boom and spurs innovation in sleep related CBD products
In the wake of the pandemic, sleep has become a topic of importance — work-from-home culture has caused an increase and boom in mattress and sleep product sales.
One of those products also happens to be CBD.
“Our CBD sleep product is our bestseller by far,” said Dan Wittmers, strategic advisor for Holistik Wellness, a New Jersey based CBD company. ” We move more of that product than probably the next two combined. Everybody’s looking for better sleep and I think honestly that was the case even before the pandemic. With the lifestyle we live now, the always-on aspect of our lives, it’s just tough to shut that down and get a good night’s sleep.”
Sleep can often be the primary avenue through which customers enter the CBD space, Wittmers said, but to him the proof is also in the numbers.
By January the company’s sleep-related product made up roughly half of the company’s entire revenue, he said.
“Some of the interesting ways that cannabis is being used now is being dwarfed by folks just looking for a good night’s sleep,” Wittmers said.
Advertisements within the cannabis space have reflected that reality, said Barbara Goodstein of New York-based CBD brand, B GREAT CBD.
“With fears about the pandemic ever-present, studies have shown people’s anxiety levels increasing, so finding a way to feel rested and relaxed is a priority,” she said. “If you take a look at Facebook ads and other CBD advertising, many brands are heavily promoting their sleep products, which seems like a clear indication that a good night’s sleep is on everyone’s mind.”
Kiva Confections, which is based in Oakland, one of California’s largest and earliest markets to adopt social equity measures that have had a large influence in similar New Jersey and New York provisions, cited sleep products selling as an enduring trend.
“Not only are more people leaning on cannabis to ease their stress, we’ve seen demand rise for edibles that promote a restful sleep,” said Kiva Confection co-founder Kristi Palmer. “Many are finding out that they are not only effective, they are more enjoyable than sleep supplements.”
If there’s any example on the horizon for how the CBD industry can evolve, Fleur Marché, a Los Angeles-based brand could provide one. It took the approach of marketing CBD in a way that offers an experience more akin to fashion and beauty websites than that of retail stores that move perishable goods. The company is now compared to luxury sites such as Sephora and other mainstream highbrow retailers that made their names off of top-tier products.
One of the frontiers that makes CBD different from traditional high fashion and luxury products however, is the potential for untapped research.
“Specifically, there’s a lot of progress yet to be made in terms of structuring clinical trials and studies that can be generally accepted without caveat,” said Fleur Marché co-founders Ashley Lewis and Meredith Schroeder in an emailed statement. “Currently, much of the research is pre-clinical or performed on animals, so a lot of doubt remains about the efficacy and true benefits of CBD. In terms of product expansion, there’s a ton of buzz around other cannabinoids like CBG, CBN, CBC. We’re excited to see more conclusive research around their respective benefits both when isolated and when paired with CBD.”
As research and market share increases, customized CBD products branching out into multiple avenues is an inevitable switch that the entire industry will have to make, Wittmers said.
“We really believe that the future of cannabis is customized therapies derived from the cannabis plant,” he said.
“I think what you’ll find just in the formulations themselves, they’re going to be more creative,” Wittmers said. “They’re going to be differentiated even though the delivery mechanisms will most likely stay fairly similar. You’ll still see flower, you’ll still see edibles, you’ll still see beverages, you’ll still see topicals, there’s patches … a lot of that is really all focused on ‘what are you trying to solve?’”
(NJ Cannabis Insider file photo)
After court case, this company seeks a way to create insurance options for medical cannabis users
Medical cannabis patients were not the only ones celebrating the state Supreme Court’s decision last month that required a construction company to pay the tab for an injured employee’s medicine.
Don Parisi, co-owner of Bennabis, a New Jersey-based company that aims to be the first in the nation to offer health coverage for patients who need help paying for their cannabis, called the decision “a triggering event for us.”
Workers’ compensation cases are an easy foot in the door to this untapped market, said Parisi, a former insurance executive and Union County resident.
Bennabis — only 13 months old and still in start-up mode seeking investors — has a dual mission. One side of the business will offer property and casualty insurance for dispensaries and other plant-touching industries. The other, Bennabis Health, will serve as an intermediary between patients and employer-sponsored health plans.
Bennabis is “dedicated to filling the holes in the health insurance industry for medical cannabis patients and providing coverage for those patients left behind due to federal government restrictions,” according to the company website.
As long as the federal government continues to classify cannabis as an illegal substance with no medicinal value, convincing employers and insurance companies to cover cannabis like other medicines is going to be a very tough sell.
And the cost of cannabis in New Jersey remains prohibitive for many patients, at $350 to $500 an ounce.
Even with the favorable Supreme Court decision, patients who receive workers comp still face financial barriers if they have to pay first then seek reimbursement from their employer, which is how the arrangement was described in court records between Vincent Hager, the injured worker and plaintiff, and his former employer, M&K Construction.
“There might be a whole bunch of potential workers’ comp petitioners who can’t afford that up-front payment,” Parisi said.
And for workers’ comp carriers who might not want to pay the dispensary directly, Bennabis would be their go-between, Parisi said.
The company’s 12-owner/investors have been marketing their proposal to workers compensation carriers with the pitch that cannabis might enable some employees to return to work sooner, Parisi said.
Bennabis is working to change minds and ease reluctance by sharing studies like the recent one co-authored by William Paterson University economics professor Rahi Abouk. Based on nine years of workers compensation claims, employees 40 and older filed 20% fewer claims in states with medicinal marijuana programs. The claims data showed employees using cannabis for pain management filed fewer claims, the study said.
A “prominent payor” Parisi declined to identify recently asked for evidence of cannabis’ efficacy, and the company was able to share with her this study.
“It’s pretty clear that (cannabis) doesn’t cure anything but it definitely helps people be more productive,” he said.
The driving force behind the company’s founding was to create insurance options for medical cannabis users, said Parisi, a board member for one of New Jersey’s original growers and retailers, Compassionate Care Foundation before it was bought by Acreage Holdings. Through this experience, Parisi said he saw the transformative benefits of the plant in so many patients’ lives. He knew he wanted to see more people take advantage of the pain-relieving, muscle spasm-reducing benefits, and they could only do so if they could afford it.
Parisi and his partners envision operating on two tracks. Bennabis would sell a membership or subscription to patients directly who would qualify for discounts at dispensaries — just like AAA offers discounts at retailers like LensCrafters, Parisi said. The more complicated but ultimately more comprehensive plan would involve employer-sponsored health plans agreeing to cover medical cannabis, with patients sharing some of the cost, he said.
The potential market is huge. According to the New Jersey Association of Health Plans, 3.36 million people in the state last year were covered by self-insured employer plans.
But the cultural bias against cannabis is significant, Parisi said.
“The two biggest obstacles are getting enough attention from dispensaries, and finding the early adopter — (an employer) who is going to say ‘I think this is a great idea that really might benefit my employees and their dependents to have access to this medicine, and I don’t have to wait for the federal government to change its mind,’ ” he said.
— Susan K. Livio | NJ.com
Art Hance at a grow facility his company built.
Art Hance is founder and president of Hance Construction, Inc. which is a leader in turnkey construction management and general contracting services to the industrial, commercial and cannabis markets in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania. Hance will be a speaker at NJ Cannabis Insider’s New York state May 20 half-day conference and New Jersey June 8-9 conference. This conversation was slightly edited for clarity.
Q: Tell us about Hance Construction and how you got into the cannabis space.
A: We are a general contractor and construction manager based in New Jersey, we work outside of New Jersey and surrounding states and throughout the Mid-Atlantic region. Our tagline is “Tailored Construction Services.” We realize that every owner has different delivery needs for their project. And we tailor our services to that.
We got involved in the cannabis industry about three years ago, when we were asked to bid a demolition project for a proposed dispensary. And then later, we were asked to bid on a building for a grow facility. When we started working with the owner and talking to them about the building that they were proposing, and we did some research on cannabis, we quickly determined that the building that they were buying would not meet their needs. And it would cause long-term problems for them. So we declined to bid the project and pointed out the problems that they would have in the future, and how it would impact them financially. They were, at first a little bit put off that we would not bid the building that they wanted us to bid.
Later on, I guess they thought about it a little bit more, and they asked us to get involved in a project that they were planning. We’ve worked with them to the planning phases. And eventually we completed four different projects for them in the cannabis field here in New Jersey.
Q: In the cannabis space, you go through a lot over three years. What are the biggest challenges that you’ve seen operators come up against?
A: One of the biggest challenges right now — besides funding — is site selection. And finding a site that is, you know, where the local community is supportive of cannabis, and the infrastructure and workforce is in place to support the operation.
Q: You’ve told me on a separate occasion that you can scale to anywhere else in the country, not just New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New York. How do you pick projects?
A: I think that what we look for is not so much the market but the owner. With the proper owner, we will build anywhere. We’ve got a saying, “We pick owners, not on projects.” You can have the toughest project in the world, and if it’s with a good owner, it’s a great project,
Q: You are not only involved with grow facilities, but retail spaces. Tell us about the retail space experience.
A: The big thing there is site selection, to be in a location that provides the client flow that you need to be profitable, that has the means of access to that facility for traffic control, provides unfettered handicap access for medical patients, and provides a secure environment for the product to be sold.
Q: What is your advice to future micro-license holders?
A: That’s an emerging market here. So right now we’re approaching it with an open mind. I think that they need to be very aware of the actual costs to build a commercially viable cannabis facility. They need to be cautious about their expectations for sweat equity and the construction of the facility. Certainly many of these applicants are going to be successful because they get out there and they roll up their sleeves and they do the demo of a space and they do the painting and this and that. But they need to be aware of when to call in professionals. You know, structural considerations, environmental considerations, the equipment installation, security. And and probably most importantly, the design and layout of the facility so that it operates efficiently. And you don’t have spaces that are over or undersized for the canopy that you’re expected to produce.
Q: In previous rounds of applications, the state required seeing design plans for facilities to ensure the applicant knew what they were doing. Without seeing what the new round of RFAs require, we won’t know if that’s necessary. Could you touch on that?
A: Typically, they would say a general overview of what the design would be in the spaces that were involved. And, probably one of the biggest things was a clear idea of how security was going to be handled. And, we have consultants that we work with that can provide that documentation. It does become somewhat site specific for any facility. But I think that post licensing, one of the considerations is to get all your ducks in a row before you pull the trigger on construction. You’re likely going to be leasing space. Make sure that you have your design down, that your permits are in order, and that everything is ready to go and then get in there, get the job done quickly, and get cash flowing as soon as possible.
Q: How long does it take to build an MSO’s 25,000-square-foot canopy space versus a 2,500-square-foot space, which is what the micro licenses will be?
A: The micro-license buildouts will probably be six months. And that will depend a lot upon what’s going on in there. If it’s strictly canopy, I can go pretty quickly. If it involves extraction and processing, it’s going to take longer because of the permitting and the inspections required new additional work. You really have to temper that with what’s going on in our industry right now. And products that we saw a 12-week lead time on four or five months ago, are now taking 40 weeks. There are components for buildings that we cannot get until 2022.
Q: Let’s say I’m a micro-license holder, I have all my designs, permits everything ready to go. How much money should I be thinking about raising money or asking my rich uncle for?
A: If you look at typical construction costs today for office fit out or something, you’re looking in the $150 a square foot range. It cost a lot more to build a cannabis facility. So I think at the very minimum for a basic canopy type micro grow operation, you’re going to be looking in that $200 and up a square foot range. The sky’s the limit where you can go.
When you’re building a facility that has full canopy extraction, packaging, and and it’s built to really produce high-quality, high-volume cannabis, you can be talking $400 to $500 a square foot. Now, these are construction costs to that you’ve got add, everything that the owner will be bringing in. All of their personal protective equipment, all of their security apparatus, computers, any extraction equipment, cables, other things. There’s a lot that goes into this. So it really becomes, a project-specific question.
— Enrique Lavin
Troy Brosnan is chief operating officer of LEVIA, a THC-based seltzer in Massachusetts with plans of expansion in the northeastern market. In this interview we talk about the future of THC-based beverages and how not having a hangover can be a selling point into bringing people into adult-use drinking as opposed to getting drinkers into adult-use cannabis. Find him on LinkedIn.
Q: Describe the difference between a cannabis-infused drink and an alcoholic beverage?
A: We all know that alcohol is poison, it poisons your brain, it poisons your body and it’s actually 114 times more toxic to your body than cannabis. Looking at those statistics, drinking is really not great for you. So by taking a plant that has so many benefits and putting it into a beverage, it just made sense to us.
Q: How much THC are in the drinks?
A: Right now we have to follow the regulation which is around 5 milligrams. At first, being a high tolerance consumer, I was a little bit bummed out that we could only do 5 milligram drinks, but now that we’re actually in market and we’re getting feedback and we’re seeing the way that these are really feeling for people, I’m glad we’re not more than 5 milligrams because it really makes for an accessible experience. So if your friends are over for two to three hours, you can grab a six-pack and really spread out that 30, 25 to 35 milligrams over the course of a full night.
Q: What are some other projects that are being worked on?
A: We have a couple of R&D projects up our sleeves. We’re currently working on a water soluble tincture, it is virtually tasteless so you can add it to any beverage of your choice without compromising the flavor. Down the road we’re also working on a THC-infused non-alcoholic beer that we are hoping to launch in 2022.
Q: How does LEVIA do customer education?
A: We have a team and they go out into the dispensaries. We do pop-ups. It’s a little hard now with COVID, but with things relaxing, we basically have a street team that goes out and they’ll do two to three hour pop-ups at the dispensaries. They’re all uber-trained on what makes our beverage different and all that great stuff. That’s what we really want to do. We could advertise, we could do a lot of advertorials, but we think the one-on-one road trip of having somebody, a representative of the company, out at these dispensaries to meet with people one-on-one, we think that’s the route to go.
Q: What’s on the horizon for cannabis-based beverages?
A: I think it really helps break the stigma. Having beverages is really a game changer. Whenever I’d have people over, every single one of my friends consumes cannabis and we’d have a couple hundred milligram chocolate bars and we’d split up the chocolate.
That whole entire activity took maybe 15 to 30 seconds. You know everyone ate their chocolates and then we’re waiting an hour for it to be done. Now you can have a can in your hand, you could be sipping it, socializing and you’re just washed over with these great effects. The beverages hit by the time you’re done with about half a can, so it’s in the first seven minutes you start to feel the effects and they offset after about three hours, so I feel as cannabis beverages evolve, I think it really is the future of the cannabis industry.
— Jelani Gibson
Quality cannabis checklist: Protect against heavy metals
By Eric Klein, vice president of The Organic Mechanics Soil Company, a Modena, Pennsylvania-based manufacturer and distributor of premier organic potting soils and soil amendments for the professional and consumer gardening communities.
As New Jersey and other states figure out how to sell and regulate adult-use cannabis, debate focuses on fair licensing, taxation, and treatment of victims of the failed War on Drugs.
Perhaps overlooked is an important public-health protection: safeguarding cannabis consumers from heavy metals.
The cannabis plant, in addition to its better-known attributes, is quite effective at absorbing heavy metals from soil. The fancy term for this skill is bioaccumulator.
Don’t be alarmed. Heavy metals occur naturally in soil, typically at trace levels that are not toxic. But mining, disposal of industrial waste, land application of fertilizers, animal manure, pesticides, wastewater irrigation, coal combustion residue, and other human activities can contaminate soil.
Heavy metals do not undergo microbial (via bacteria) or chemical degradation.
Therefore, limits on heavy metals are an emerging feature of cannabis controls and should be clearly specified in New Jersey’s regulatory scheme.
- California mandates sample testing for cadmium, lead, arsenic, and mercury. If cannabis fails, it cannot be released for retail sale.
- Montana requires random testing for heavy metals for usable marijuana and extracts.
- Ohio tests samples for threshold levels of arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury: “A testing laboratory shall analyze a sample of at least one half of one percent of the net weight . . . from each batch of dried, cured plant material intended to be sold to a dispensary licensed by the state of Ohio . . .”
States are enforcing heavy-metal regulations, including ordering recalls. Medical marijuana officials in Ohio issued a recall of cannabis infused chocolate edibles last fall from eight dispensaries, citing too much cadmium.
Days later, Colorado issued its first marijuana recall for heavy metals, sanctioning a cannabis wholesaler for potentially unsafe levels of arsenic.
In 2019, Michigan regulators pulled four medical marijuana products due to concern about heavy metals and pesticide.
Effective tactics for protecting cannabis consumers from excess heavy metals include soil testing, use of quality nutrients and soils, and avoiding contaminated water.
Cannabis is a job-creating growth industry, and a new revenue stream for government. Cultivation, like other agriculture, faces infinite variables and risks. The business is competitive, regulated, and heavily taxed (Colorado brought in $387 million-plus in taxes and fees alone in 2020).
Quality control is a linchpin of legalized marijuana. Without it, consumers get hurt, the underground market gains appeal, and government forfeits tax revenue. An important ingredient of cannabis quality is assurance against heavy metal contamination.
The U.S. Capitol Building (Associated Press file photo by Patrick Semansky)
GOP lawmakers want cannabis removed from federal ban
The two Republican co-chairs of the Congressional Cannabis Caucus have introduced their own legislation to remove the federal ban on marijuana.
The Common Sense Cannabis Reform for Veterans, Small Businesses and Medical Professionals Act is sponsored by Reps. David Joyce of Ohio and Don Young of Alaska.
“With more than 40 states taking action on this issue, it’s past time for Congress to recognize that continued cannabis prohibition is neither tenable nor the will of the American electorate,” Joyce said.
But the legislation does not contain a robust social justice component, unlike the House Democrats’ comprehensive marijuana bill, the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act, or MORE Act, that passed last December. Joyce voted against the measure while Young supported it.
Many proponents of legalizing cannabis have insisted that any legislation also address the negative impact that the ongoing War on Drugs has had on minority communities.
“Federal legalization must be drafted and regulated to provide social and economic justice for the millions of lives upended by discrimination and unequal enforcement,” Marijuana Policy Project Executive Director Steve Hawkins said. “By including those most harmed, we can build an equitable, well-regulated, and inclusive cannabis industry from the ground up.”
The legislation would remove marijuana from the federal list of controlled substances, where it is now classified like heroin; and give the federal government one year to come up with cannabis regulations similar to those used for alcohol.
The measure also would allow banks to provide financial services to legal marijuana businesses; enable veterans to get cannabis prescriptions from the Department of Veterans Affairs; and require within two years studies by the National Institutes of Health on impairment and whether marijuana can offer a non-opioid alternative to manage pain.
“For too long, the federal government’s outdated cannabis policies have stood in the way of both individual liberty and a state’s 10th Amendment rights,” Young said. “It is long past time that these archaic laws are updated for the 21st century.”
— Jonathan Salant | NJ.com
NJ Cannabis Inside file photo
Rowan U. presents webinar: ‘The Business of Cannabis: Opportunities for the Garden State’
Rowan University’s Rohrer College of Business is hosting a free webinar May 19 at 5:15 p.m., featuring cannabis industry thought leaders who will share insights on New Jersey’s emerging marketplace, accounting and tax issues, seed-to-sale operations, regulatory compliance realities, and core issues related to advocacy, social equity, and policy reform.
The talk will cover the trends, strategies, and challenges that underscore this dynamic, nascent, and evolving market.
Speakers include: Stacey Udell, director at HBK Valuation Group; Mackie Barch, mid-Atlantic leader of Cannabis Industry Group; and Devra Karlebach, CEO of GTI-New Jersey, among other power players.
For more information or to register, go here.
This week in Power Players we have Trulieve consolidating into a major acquisition, The American Cannabis Nurses Association releases a statement about drug testing and a New Jersey lending firm closing a loan in western Massachusetts with a large portion of it being involved in cannabis.
Trulieve announced a major acquisition of Harvest Health and Recreation, deepening its footprint as a multistate operator. The move is expected to provide more room for expanded northeastern hubs.
The combined businesses include operations in 11 states, 22 cultivation and processing facilities, a total of 3.1 million square feet and 126 dispensaries, according to the company’s press release.
“Today’s announcement is the largest and most exciting acquisition so far in our industry, creating the most profitable public multi-state operator,” said Kim Rivers, Trulieve CEO. “Importantly, our companies share similar customer values with a focus on going deep in core markets. This combination offers us the opportunity to leverage our respective strong foundations and propel us forward with an unparalleled platform for future growth.”
Nurses push back against random drug testing for cannabis
The American Cannabis Nurses Association pushed back against random workplace drug-testing for cannabis this week out of Albany. The statement also pushed back against pre-employment drug testing for cannabis as well.
The statement comes amid growing state-level cannabis legalization and concerns from multiple sectors and unions about testing for cannabis impairment and job discrimination.
“Testing for cannabinoids, especially THC, is not a reliable test for impairment and there is no evidence to support that testing improves workplace performance or decreases workplace accidents,” said Eloise Theisen, ACNA President in a released statement. “As more and more states move towards legalizing medical and adult-use cannabis, employers will need to start reviewing the evidence and make policy changes that are based on evidence and not fear.”
Kennedy Funding, one of New Jersey’s largest private real estate lenders, closed a 1.3 million loan to Hampden Papers, a lamination, sheeting and embossing company in Massachusetts.
Three of five buildings are under contract for the cannabis space, said Kennedy Funding CEO Kevin Wolfe in a press release.
The move represents how lenders are increasingly moving capital into cannabis within the northeastern sector and how, while cannabis itself remains federally illegal to move across multiple state lines, capital is not.
“Knowing that the former Hampden Papers site was soon to be sold, we were able to quickly review and approve this loan application so the borrower could access the funding necessary to prepare for the sale. The current value of the properties, together with the pending sale, enabled us to offer a very attractive rate, despite the lack of a structural engineer report,” he said.
— Jelani Gibson
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