In February, New Jersey cannabis regulators delayed rolling out adult-use cannabis sales on the premise that existing medical retailers did not have the capacity to serve both customer types at that time.
Two months later, when the state’s cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) approved seven of New Jersey’s 11 medical cannabis operators to expand their operations to serve the broader adult-use market during an April 11 public meeting, state officials expressed confidence in those companies to continue prioritizing the needs of medical patients. At the time, there were 120,000-plus registered patients with 17 qualifying conditions, according to CRC.
And when those seven companies officially opened their doors to adult customers at 12 of the state’s 24 retail locations on April 21—making New Jersey the 14th state to launch commercial adult-use sales—it was a day of celebration in the Garden State. It also was a day that some of the largest cannabis operators in the U.S. vowed that patient care under New Jersey’s medical program would remain a top priority.
What about the long lines associated with an adult-use program launch?
Two patient-only hours per day was the answer (often, the first hour and last hour of operation are reserved for medical patients at a dispensary).
But five of the seven companies to launch adult-use retail operations on April 21 were later fined a combined $360,000 by the CRC for allegedly not honoring those medical-only hours: Verano Holdings ($90,000), Green Thumb Industries ($80,000), Ascend Wellness Holdings ($80,000), Acreage Holdings ($60,000) and Curaleaf ($50,000), as reported by Bloomberg.
The fines came at a rate of $10,000 per day for each day the alleged violations occurred from April 21 to April 29, the news outlet reported.
The other two companies participating on launch day, Columbia Care and TerrAscend, were not cited.
In a prepared statement to cannabis Business Times from Curaleaf’s Stephanie Cunha, the company’s regional director of public relations, the multistate operator (MSO) with 134 dispensaries nationwide, as of June 16, took ownership of the infractions.
“Curaleaf acknowledges responsibility for these citations and have paid our fines to the state,” the statement read. “During the first few days of adult-use sales in New Jersey, we were responding to the overwhelming lines and demand at our facility for adult use. Because of sales and events leading up to the first days of adult-use sales, a vast number of our medical patients had stocked up on products before the 21st, resulting in virtually no lines at our facility at the time. Medical patients who came to Curaleaf during these days were immediately prioritized over recreational consumers and served almost immediately with no wait. We continue to prioritize our medical patients and are now living up to our promise to provide two designated hours to the medical community at each of our locations every day.”
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