More Q1 Grand Openings
While the coronavirus pandemic finally appears to be slowing down, cannabis retail stores continue to open across the country at a record pace.
Gage Cannabis Co. opened its second Cookies dispensary in Michigan on February 27, expanding the cannabis retail brand founded by rapper Berner deeper into the Midwest. The 3,000-square-foot location in Kalamazoo  featured a grand opening celebration with Kalamazoo City Commissioner Eric Cunningham, Kalamazoo Mayor David Anderson and the Cookies Kalamazoo general nanager Kyle Johnson, all pictured above, cutting the ceremonial ribbon.
California’s Napa Valley welcomed its newest cannabis dispensary, Abide , on March 12. The new business celebrated its launch with a socially distanced, outdoor celebration featuring food, music and raffles throughout the weekend.
In Arizona, Giving Tree recently celebrated its move to a new Phoenix location in March. The shop, recently licensed for recreational sales, features an open-concept sales floor and will be featured in the June 2021 issue of Marijuana Venture.
Missouri Health & Wellness opened its fifth location in Kirksville, Missouri, on March 1. The Kirksville store is the company’s final location as it puts the company at the maximum number of dispensaries allowed by any one business in the state.
On March 5, Verilife opened its new Galena, Illinois, adult-use location. The new cannabis dispensary sits approximately eight miles from the Wisconsin border and reports say it is already capitalizing on residents willing to make the drive across state lines to buy cannabis legally.
On February 24, Ayr Wellness  opened a new medical dispensary in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania. It is the second Ayr Wellness location to open in the state.
In Grand Rapids, Michigan, local residents welcomed the arrival of the city’s fifth and sixth dispensaries this past month with the grand openings of Exclusive Brands  on February 26 and the first of three Root 66 stores on March 5. Exclusive Brands is offering first-time customers a 20% discount on purchases and an ongoing 10% discounts to any student or veteran with valid ID.
With social equity being a focus for most state-legal cannabis markets, various accelerator programs have been sprouting up around the country during the past two years. These programs, formed by corporate entities, nonprofits, governments, or a combination thereof, strive to add diversity to the industry.
The Inclusive Industry (“i2”) Accelerator, a business development program founded by the Minority Cannabis Business Association and private equity firm Merida Capital Partners, announced in March that High Road successfully graduated from the program. High Road was given $100,000 by the program to develop its delivery platform for dispensaries and consumers in the Mid-Atlantic region. High Road is one of five minority-owned businesses in the accelerator program, the others are Connecticut hemp farm Vega Holdings, the Michigan vocational school Higher Learnings Institution, Oakland cannabis manufacturer James Henry, and Atlanta-based CBD-edibles producer Canna Bistro.
California based online marketplace and delivery platform, Eaze, announced its national Momentum business accelerator’s class of 2021. This year the program provided 10 applicants hailing from California, Michigan, New Jersey and New York with $50,000 grants, enrollment in a 12-week business development program, and upon completion of the 12-week program, the 2021 class will have the opportunity to pitch their businesses to investors to raise capital. This year’s recipients are:
Josephine & Billies from Los Angeles, BridgeH2o from Trenton, New Jersey, Syracuse Hemporium from Syracuse, New York, The Peakz Co from Oakland, California, Neighborhood Essentials from Detroit, Gorilla Rx from Los Angeles, The People’s Dispensary from Fresno, California, Undefined from Los Angeles, Gift of Doja from San Francisco, and La Flor from Sacramento, California.
The Momentum 2021 class were chosen from 250 applicants. This is the second class to enter the accelerator since it launched in 2020.
Five-time NBA all-star and Webber Wellness founder Chris Webber and JW Asset Management and TerrAscend chairman Jason Wild, joined forces to create a $100 million private equity cannabis fund to invest in underrepresented entrepreneurs in the cannabis industry as well as provide business resources, including research and development and marketing.
New Jersey’s adult-use marketplace has cleared the final legal hurdles and is one step closer to being open
Governor Phil Murphy in late February signed into law a series of three bills that end prohibition and create the cannabis marketplace approved by voters in November by a margin of 67%.
“This November, New Jerseyans voted overwhelmingly in support of creating a well-regulated adult-use cannabis market,” murphy said in a press release. “Although this process has taken longer than anticipated, I believe it is ending in the right place and will ultimately serve as a national model.”
Under the new law, known as “A21” or “The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory, Enforcement Assistance, and Marketplace Modernization Act,” the Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) will create regulations to govern the medical and adult-use industries and oversee the applications for licensing of cannabis businesses. The rules must be adopted within 180 days of bill signing, or within 45 days of all five members of the commission being appointed, the commission will adopt rules and regulations to carry out its duties.
There are also several social equity provisions built into the legislation, including a requirement that 25% of licenses must be issued to business that plan to employ at least 25% of its workforce from “impact zones” created by the War on Drugs. The legislation further provides for the Legislature to reinvest cannabis revenues in those zones.
“This legislation will establish an industry that brings equity and economic opportunity to our communities, while establishing minimum standards for safe products and allowing law enforcement to focus their resources on real public safety matters,” said Murphy.
Additionally, at least 10 percent of the total licenses issued for each license class, and at least 25 percent of the overall total number of licenses issued would be designated for and only issued to “microbusinesses” that meet a strict set of criteria that include having no more than 10 employees and poessessing no more than 1,000 cannabis plants per month.
Local municipalities have the option to authorize and regulate the number of licensed cannabis businesses in their borders, though only the commission can regulate delivery services. Municipalities may also adopt a local transfer tax imposed on sales that cannot exceed 2% of the receipts from each sale by a cannabis manufacturer; 1% of the receipts from each sale by a cannabis wholesaler; and 2% of the receipts from each sale by a cannabis retailer.
The legislation was praised by a broad range of stakeholders, particularly for its bend toward social equity.
“By implementing a regulated system that allows people age 21 and over to purchase limited amounts of marijuana for personal use we will bring marijuana out of the underground market where it can be controlled, regulated and taxed, just as alcohol has been for decades,” said state Senator Nicholas Scutari, a leading advocate of legalization. “New Jersey will now be a leader in legalizing a once stigmatized drug in ways that will help the communities hurt the most by the War on Drugs and realize the economic benefits of the new adult-use cannabis market.”
“Our state’s cannabis laws can set a new standard for what justice can look like, with the removal of criminal for possession and an unprecedented portion of revenue dedicated to addressing the harms wrought by the drug war,” said Amol Sinha, Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey and board member of New Jersey United for Marijuana Reform.
The other two bills signed by the governor reform criminal and civil penalties for marijuana offenses and provides remedies for people currently facing certain marijuana charges. And clarify the penalties for possession and consumption among those younger than 21, one of Murphy’s priorities that led to the delay in the enacting this legislation.
“At long last, New Jersey is turning the page on our previous treatment of marijuana use,” said Dianna Houenou, incoming Chair of the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission. “I am excited to get to work building on the successes of the medical program and standing up the adult-use cannabis industry. It’s an honor to be part of this historic movement in New Jersey.”