Lines around blocks at dispensaries for recreational marijuana (but not in Montclair)
Lines formed around stores and blocks at 13 marijuana dispensaries in New Jersey Thursday morning — but not in Montclair, site of the first medical dispensary ever opened in the Garden State.
At RISE in Bloomfield — the closest dispensary to Montclair offering recreational marijuana, as sales expanded beyond medical use for the first time in New Jersey Thursday — doors opened at 6 p.m. NJ.com reported the dispensary reached its 75- person capacity within 10 minutes. Karen Yi of WNYC said on Twitter some buyers were on site as early as 4:40 a.m.
She described the dispensary as looking "Apple Store-ish."
Shane Paul Neil, a reporter and photographer working with Montclair Local, said though lines wrapped around the store, things still seemed to move quickly, with most people served within an hour. Press seemed to have taken up half the parking lot, he said. There was a large police presence, with at least three or four vehicles and a dozen officers on site.
"Because their license got approved at the very last minute, RISE did not have its full inventory available," Neil said. "Several customers asked why there were no pre-rolls and were informed that they would be arriving soon."
Glenn Schuck of 1010 Wins spotted a Glazed and Confused doughnut struck outside the RISE location. Derrick Waller of ABC 7 described the scene awaiting the opening as a "celebration," with people playing steel drums, and balloons on display.
Customers at RISE filled out their orders on a kiosk, waited in line, then paid, Katie Corrado of PIX 11 said.
Darren Coleman of Plainfied told NJ.com he wanted to be at a dispensary on the first day of recreational sales "to be a part of the moment.” He said he was "just glad I don’t have to go to California anymore.”
At another dispensary, the Apothecarium (owned by TerrAscend) in Phillipsburg, Yi said on Twitter that medical patients were allowed in first, as recreational users filled out orders on clipboards. People had waited on line there for two hours, she said. "Bud consultants" were on hand to answer questions about marijuana products in glass cases.
Recreational sales began at several medical dispensaries Thursday — a day after April 20, or 4/20, celebrated as a marijuana enthusiast holiday — following approvals by the state's Cannabis Regulator Commission early last week.
But Montclair dispensary Ascend — at the site of the former Greenleaf Compassion Center on Bloomfield Avenue, which became the state's first operating alternative treatment center in 2012 — wasn't among them. The company expanded to recreational sales at its Rochelle Park location after getting approval from the governing body there, but doesn't yet have the OK from Montclair. The Rochelle Park location opened at 8 a.m. Thursday.
While the Montclair Township Council by a series of 5-2 votes last summer agreed to let recreational marijuana businesses operate in town — allowing for two retail shops and five other cannabis-related businesses within Montclair’s borders — the township hasn’t yet come up with an application businesses can submit. The Township Council could consider giving Ascend its OK via a resolution, bypassing any application process, but so far hasn't done so.
“There’s nothing new other than the application is being worked on still since August 2021," Caitlin Fleishman, director of public affairs for Ascend Wellness Holdings, told Montclair Local earlier this week. "Noteworthy as a majority of the voters in Montclair supported adult use of cannabis in the state ballot initiative, and voters are probably now realizing they cannot shop with us in the imminent opening. Probably very confusing as to why."
In addition to its dispensaries in Rochelle Park and Montclair, Ascend has a cultivation plant in Franklin, and is planning to open a dispensary in Fort Lee. The Cannabis Regulatory Commission granted approvals for Franklin and Rochelle Park, but an application for the expansion at the Montclair location is awaiting the possible local approval.
Fleishman said she hopes that a resolution of approval of Ascend’s expansion will be attached to the May 3 Montclair Township Council agenda; so far, no plans to do so have been announced. Interim Township Attorney Paul Burr recently told Montclair Local the company's request for a resolution was being considered.
Montclair’s ordinance would have it collect a tax on the receipts of cannabis sales or transfers of 2% for cannabis cultivators, manufacturers and retailers (as Rochelle Park is doing today), and 1% for wholesalers.
In a possible preview of how operations could work in Montclair, Ascend said in an announcement of its initial recreational sales at Rochelle Park that any customers would reserve 20-minute shopping appointment windows at letsascend.com ahead of their visits. Medical customers did not need reservations.
"To preserve the same excellent service level our medical patients have become accustomed to, Ascend will now provide medical patients with a host of dedicated services, including the dispensary's medical express lane, direct access to the front entrance, private consultation rooms, and designated parking spots," it said.
Fleishman said the Rochelle Park location opened with 1,500 appointments for recreational users Thursday, and filled each of them.
"We are thrilled to be serving so many excited customers," she said. "The Ascend team has been preparing for this day for months and it has shown."
Along with municipal approval, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission sought proof that dispensaries had sufficient supply of marijuana to meet the needs of patients after the expansion, had plans to ensure patient access and plans to address social equity and safety, Jeff Brown, executive director of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, said at a state hearing in May. Just weeks earlier, the commission punted on a decision to allow recreational sales at medical dispensaries, and Brown had said at the time he was worried about supply.
"Existing patients can rest assured that they remain a priority and will continue to enjoy our top-tier services without disruption as we welcome adult-use consumers to the New Jersey Ascend community," Ascend said in a press statement.
The locations opening Thursday are: Ascend in Rochelle Park; The Botanist (owned by Acreage CCF New Jersey) in Egg Harbor Township and Williamstown; Curaleaf in Edgewater Park and Bellmawr; Columbia Care in Vineland and the company’s Cannabist shop in Deptford; Zen Leaf (owned by Verano) in Lawrence and Elizabeth; RISE (owned by GTI New Jersey) in Bloomfield and Paterson; and the Apothecarium (owned by TerrAscend) in Phillipsburg and Maplewood.
Map courtesy of NJ Spotlight News. See its original post here.