Columbia Care CEO and Ayr Wellness COO discuss NJ’s new recreational cannabis market


New Jersey was the focus of a panel at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital virtual conference, in the wake of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signing recreational cannabis.

Jelani Gibson, specialist journalist for NJ Cannabis Insider, spoke to Jen Drake, COO of Ayr Wellness (CSE: AYR) (OTCQX: AYRWF) and Nick Vita, CEO of Columbia Care (NEO: CCHW) (CSE: CCHW).

Sales of recreational cannabis are expected to begin before the end of the year.

An increase in demand: New Jersey could become the new hub for massive cannabis sales, as people from neighboring states, like New York, come to buy legal adult cannabis.

Operators and lawmakers now fear that leisure buyers will jump across state lines, affecting access for medical patients.

“Access is very important,” says Drake. “But access starts with food and culture. “

There are currently 12 licensed medical marijuana operators in New Jersey, covering less than 300,000 square feet of cultivation, 10% of which is owned by Ayr.

However, this is not enough to cover the increase in demand that the state will soon be faced with. Lawmakers take the need to secure medical supplies very seriously. The new laws require the entire industry to expand, with more growth operations, more dispensaries, and more quality testing centers.

During the first two years from the implementation of the Adult Use Regulation, a total of 37 licenses will be granted for cultivation.

All 12 medical marijuana licensees will be able to apply for licenses to grow, process, sell and distribute for the recreational market.

“New Jersey has gone through a very disciplined legislative process,” says Nick Vita of Columbia Care. “One of the priorities is to ensure that there is adequate access, not only for the adult program, but for medical care. “

The state appoints an independent arbitrator who will examine the market and the supply chain, to ensure that access to medical cannabis is never limited to patients, Vita explained.

Implement social justice: “When we talk about social equity, there are so many things that come into play. Obviously, access is important, but also the ability to participate in the new industry and the ability to do so in a really profitable way, ”says Drake of Ayr Wellness.

In early February, a bill was introduced to the New Jersey legislature to create a program that subsidizes the costs of medical marijuana for patients in financial need.

“When Senator Singleton and Assembly Member Reynolds Jackson put forward their proposal to create some form of subsidy, it was a really powerful indication that sets the national tone, to make sure that if you are a consumer, you born [stopped] by an economic limitation, ”says Vita.

Columbia Care also has a mandate to promote and encourage professional growth through workforce development programs aimed at vulnerable populations such as women, veterans and POCs, Vita added.

His company aims to tackle New Jersey’s social issues with specific localized social equity policies, from an inclusion and diversity perspective.

Ayr’s “Accelerator Program” provides mentorship to social equity candidates who receive education, training, industry connections, and access to the company’s human and business resources. The program has already been implemented in Massachusetts and Ayr plans to replicate it in New Jersey.

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