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Columbia Care CEO, Ayr Wellness COO Talk Up NJ's New Recreational Cannabis Market

February 25, 2021 4:44 pm
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Columbia Care CEO, Ayr Wellness COO Talk Up NJ's New Recreational Cannabis Market

New Jersey was the focus of a panel during the virtual Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference, fresh on the heels of New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy's signing recreational cannabis into law.

Jelani Gibson, a specialized reporter for NJ Cannabis Insider, spoke with 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 newest hub for massive cannabis sales, as people from neighboring states, such as New York, come to purchase legal adult-use cannabis.

Operators and legislators are now concerned that recreational shoppers hopping over state lines, affecting access for medical patients.

“Access is super important," Drake says. "But access starts with supply and cultivation."

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

However, that’s not merely enough to cover the increase in demand that the state will soon face. Legislators are taking the need to secure medical supply very seriously. The new laws demand the entire industry to expand, with more growth operations, more dispensaries and more quality testing centers.

For 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 cultivation, processing, sell and distribution licenses for the recreational market.

“New Jersey went through a very disciplined legislative process,” says Columbia Care’s Nick Vita. “One of the priorities is making sure that there’s adequate access, not only for the adult-use program, but for medical."

The state is designating an independent arbitrary that will look at the market and the supply chain, to make sure that access to medical cannabis is never limited to patients, Vita explained.

Implementing Social Justice: “When we talk about social equity, there are so many things that come into that. Obviously access is important, but also the ability to participate in the new industry, and the ability to do it really profitably,” says Ayr Wellness’ Drake.

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

“When Senator Singleton and Assembleymember Reynolds Jackson came up with their proposal to actually create some form of subsidization, that was a really powerful indication that sets a national tone, to make sure that if you are a consumer you will not be [stopped] by an economic limitation,” Vita says.

Columbia Care also has a mandate to promote and incentivize professional growth through work-force development programs aimed at vulnerable populations like women, veterans and POC, Vita added.

His company aims to attack the social problems of New Jersey with specific localized social equity policies, from an inclusion and diversity perspective.

Ayr's “Accelerator Program” provides mentorship to social equity candidates that 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.