New Jersey’s newest medical marijuana dispensary opened Wednesday, the first facility added as part of the governor’s massive medical marijuana expansion plan.
Located in Bellmawr, the dispensary — formerly known as Compassionate Sciences — opened a new retail location across the street from the existing location. The former dispesary will now become the dispensary’s cultivation facility. Compassionate Sciences will now be called Curaleaf, named after the company that now owns it.
“Our expansion into a larger dispensary mirrors not only Curaleaf’s growth but also the progression of medical marijuana access within the state,” said George Schidlovsky, Curaleaf New Jersey’s president, in a statement. He added that the new location will allow the dispensary to serve more patients than it currently serves. (Curaleaf operates dispensaries in a number of other states.)
This is the first dispensary to open a new location since Gov. Phil Murphy revealed his plan to massively expand New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, a plan that added several common medical conditions to the program.
Earlier this month, state Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said Jersey’s medical marijuana program was registering more than 100 people every day. Since Murphy took office, a total of 4,200 patients have been added, taking the total number of patients to more than 20,000.
“This demonstrates that there was pent-up demand,” Elnahal said when the patient numbers were revealed. “People with chronic pain now have the option of medicinal marijuana instead of opioids, and more than 100 strains are available.”
Curaleaf was the first of the dispensaries to get permission from the state to expand their operation, but others are itching to join them. Five requests are pending from three of the state’s existing dispensaries for satellite locations, according to the Department of Health.
Both Garden State Dispensary in Woodbridge and Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair have told NJ Advance Media of their plans to expand, though both have declined to give specifics.
And while the current dispensaries are pushing to expand under Murphy’s plan, one of the original six dispensaries permitted years ago has yet to open its doors, even though it’s been ready to open for weeks. (In addition to Curaleaf, there are currently four other medical marijuana dispenseries operating around the state.)
Harmony Foundation in Secaucus has been growing marijuana since October, but has yet to get final approval from the health department to open its facility. Dispensary officials aren’t sure when they will get the OK.
“We believe we’re close,” said Leslie Hoffman, spokeswoman for Harmony. “We still don’t have any info (from the state), no updates.”
Department of Health officials have strongly denied that Harmony has received no information from them, saying that the two sides are in weekly — and often daily — contact. Assistant Health Commissioner Jeff Brown said the department has sent a checklist to Harmony, detailing what needs to be done before the dispensary could open. Harmony has not completed the checklist, he said.
“They’ve been holding up the process,” Brown said.
Even though Harmony hasn’t opened its first location and amid the tensions with the health department, dispensary officials are already considering an expansion.
“Our plan will be very much to open, get our license to dispense…then quickly get waivers for additional dispensaries,” Hoffman said.