Memorial Day weekend is the first big test for legal NJ weed at the Shore

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With Memorial Day upon us, the coming weeks will be New Jersey’s first big test of whether its fledgling legal weed industry will have enough marijuana to meet what experts predict will be high summer demand.

Carlos Hernandez, a Shore valet, can already see the crowds returning as he parked cars all day and night Thursday in a Ventnor high-rise that overlooks the ocean.

“The vibe is really good,” said Hernandez, 47, of Pleasantville. “I have a lot of friends who go to every dispensary to buy weed and they’re extremely happy that they don’t have to go to jail for it.”

But supply is driven by demand, and the population of the coast, especially in coastal beach communities, at least triples at this time of year. Some openly question whether the state will have enough weed for medical patients and adult recreational users.

“A major test of our cannabis supply chain will take place this summer starting on Memorial Day weekend,” said Rob Meija, assistant professor in the Department of Cannabis Research at the University of Stockton.

Several major medical dispensaries interviewed for this report say they have ramped up production sharply in anticipation of an attack they say will likely begin this holiday weekend and continue through the summer.

Many, including the Cannabis Regulatory Commission, are monitoring the situation closely.

“CRC will continue to monitor the supply, particularly for medical cannabis, to ensure there is no shortage for patients,” CRC executive director Jeff Brown said in a statement. email to NJ Advance Media.

“The Garden State Dispensary in Eatontown and the Botanist in Egg Harbor Township are currently the two closest licensed dispensaries to the Jersey Shore, and the Garden State Dispensary is not yet open for recreational sales.

“We anticipate that there may be an increase in medicinal and recreational sales, and that all open dispensaries are also anticipating this increase,” Brown added. “As the market grows – and perhaps more municipalities get involved – we hope to see more dispensaries serving the area.”

State rules dictate that each of the dispensaries must have an adequate supply for patients with medical marijuana or face heavy fines.

New Jersey, which launched the sale of recreational marijuana at a dozen locations on April 21, on Tuesday approved five more stores to launch the sale of adult weed in the coming weeks. With the opening of Curaleaf’s satellite store in Edgewater Park on Wednesday, the total number of locations currently selling adult weed is now 13 and will soon increase to 18 stores statewide.

Diane Wieland, Cape May County’s director of tourism, said Memorial Day kicks off summer, and “after that, we’re going to see the crowds are going to keep getting bigger.” She said many of those who were unable to travel due to COVID are now coming back.

To understand how summer demand for everything is exploding on the Shore, look no further than Atlantic City’s casinos, which attract millions of tourists a year but historically kill the summer months. The same goes for restaurants and other entertainment, which depend on the Memorial Day to Labor Day season for about 90% of their annual revenue.

And some may want to try cannabis for the first time during the summer.

“During the summer, people have more time and are looking to relax, celebrate and often try something new. And legal adult cannabis use does the trick,” Meija from Stockton said. .

meja said a 2019 NYU School of Medicine study showed that cannabis use among first-time users increased in the summer, and 30% of first-time users tried cannabis in the summer.

“This is going to put a strain on New Jersey’s cannabis supply,” Meija said in an interview. “As New Jersey’s tourism industry ramps up this summer, the New Jersey CRC should be prepared to impose smaller purchase limits while our growers continue to try to produce enough produce.”

Three of the new stores just approved — in Woodbridge, Eatontown and Union — are owned by AYR Wellness, which has acquired the Garden State Dispensary. Although they are not expected to open for another week or so, chief operating officer Jennifer Drake assured analysts that the company has taken all necessary steps to ensure adequate supplies for its summer opening.

During an earnings conference call on Thursday, Drake noted that the company had “stockpiled large amounts of biomass to be able to sell into the adult-use market, anticipating that it would be a market gangbuster start to adult use in this state Over 3,000 pounds currently… We also have supply agreements for almost a thousand additional pounds per month.

Three major dispensaries – Curaleaf, TerrAscend and Verano – had stockpiled a large amount of cannabis with their cultures fully constructed before the launch of adult sales on April 21.

“If there’s a supply shortage over the summer, it’s likely to be on the wholesale side,” said Chris Norman, a municipal lawyer with the Platt Law Group in Stratford, which helps towns draft local cannabis ordinances. “ATCs (Alternative Treatment Centers) will maintain their own culture to ensure their own dispensaries are fully stocked.”

That’s exactly what medical weed dispensaries do with a shore presence as they prepare for an assault.

The Botanist, owned by Acreage Holdings, began selling adult recreational cannabis at its Williamstown and Egg Harbor Township locations on April 21 with the statewide launch. The company’s Atlantic City location is restricted to medical marijuana patients at this time.

“We are excited to kick off our first summer of adult sales in New Jersey. Our dispensaries in Williamstown and Egg Harbor Township are ideally located for visitors to stop and stock up on the way down the shore for the summer,” said Sharon Ali, Regional General Manager, Mid-Atlantic Acreage, NJ AdvanceMedia.

“Demand will certainly increase over the next few months, which is why we have proactively increased our cultivation capabilities to ensure sufficient product inventory at our New Jersey dispensaries,” Ali said.

Ali said that to ensure that the needs of every The Botanist customer are met this summer, his team has maximized the cultivation capacity of his newly expanded Egg Harbor Township facility.

“We are also working closely with our wholesale partners to maintain a constant supply of our products, enabling The Botanist locations to continue to offer a diverse, high-quality selection from Memorial Day all summer long,” Ali said. “We believe The Botanist will have sufficient supply to serve every customer this summer in New Jersey.”

Columbia Care, which has medical dispensaries in Vineland and Deptford that expanded into the adult weed market last month, is also leaving no stone unturned..

“We have a stable and strong supply ready for our patients and customers and do not anticipate any supply issues for the holiday weekend or beyond,” said Volley Hayhurst, vice president of operations for Columbia Care. , in an email to NJ Advance Media. , adding that the company has just received approval to begin operating its new 270,000 square foot cultivation and manufacturing facility in Vineland.

“In preparation for Memorial Day weekend, we’ve bolstered our menus with tons of new products and brands — the range of options is phenomenal,” Hayhurst said. “We also continue to expand our adult hours of use while ensuring our medical patients have access to their medications first and foremost.”

Still, Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Pablo Zuanic, who tracks the cannabis industry nationally, said the supply and demand issue is no trivial matter given that the New Jersey, which has a population of 9.3 million, launched legal weed sales last month in just a dozen locations.

In a research note to investors dated Thursday, Zuanic said he expects the market size to increase after New Jersey reported $24 million in legal weed sales during its first months, but there will probably only be around 20 stores by the end of 2022.

“Yeah, definitely something to watch out for,” he said.

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Suzette Parmley can be attached to [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @SuzParmley

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