EDITOR’S NOTE: NJ Cannabis Insider is hosting a day-long conference and networking event Sept. 15 at the Crowne Plaza Princeton, featuring many of the state’s leading power players. Tickets are limited.
New Jersey’s 17th legal weed store began selling adult recreational marijuana on Tuesday — and it’s the first one in the state to feature a drive-thru option.
The Apothecarium Lodi, which is owned by TerrAscend, opened for patrons wanting adult weed at its 200 NJ- Route 17 location. The facility got its state approvals on May 24, and features the latest operating hours in northern New Jersey.
“It’s been an exciting and busy 24 hours for us here at Apothecarium Lodi,” Chantelle Elsner, Senior Vice President of Retail, said Wednesday. “After strong anticipation from local patients and consumers, we’ve seen a steady flow of purchases non-stop throughout the day. Shoppers are eager to try the Apothecarium’s drive-thru experience, and we’re happy to offer them such a convenient and speedy purchasing option.”
Meanwhile, two more New Jersey towns – Montclair and Neptune Township – gave the green light Monday night to begin offering adult weed sales.
Montclair approved a resolution to allow for Ascend to begin adult weed sales, and Verano – under the Zen Leaf banner – was given final approval by the Neptune Township Subcommittee.
The towns’ moves were first reported by N.J. Advance Media in June and are the latest dominos to fall in the highly competitive race to sell adult weed in New Jersey. So far 16 stores are selling it after the statewide launch of legalized adult recreational use marijuana on April 21.
Ascend can begin adult weed sales in Montclair “immediately” inside its existing dispensary at 395 Bloomfield Avenue after getting the final approval from the Township Manager, which could come at any time, said a company spokesperson.
Verano Zen Leaf in Neptune Township just needs final state approvals, which could come Thursday during the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission’s scheduled meeting. If that occurs, a Verano representative said the dispensary can begin adult weed sales within days in Neptune Township.
“We hope to be voted on and approved by the New Jersey CRC this Thursday to obtain the final approval needed to open Zen Leaf Neptune for adult use cannabis sales thereafter on the beautiful Jersey Shore,” Verano Communications Manager Grace Bondy said in an email.
For Ascend, it’s been a series of negotiations with Montclair Township to get to this point.
“We are excited to have received planning board approval, which was our last step in satisfying Montclair’s local application,” Caitlin Fleishman, Director of Public Affairs and Communications for Ascend Wellness, said in a statement. “Ascend looks forward to beginning adult use sales imminently and contributing significant tax dollars to the Township.”
Ascend received its license from the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission earlier this year, but subsequent hiccups with the township caused recent delays and even a standoff.
In May the Montclair Township Council voted to have Ascend’s application approved by the Township Manager instead of the Township Council. Things got tense between the two sides early last month as Ascend was accused of prematurely starting adult weed sales for over three hours on June 7 before municipal approvals were finalized.
Montclair Township ordered the firm to cease sales that afternoon and the two sides went back to the drawing board to resolve their differences.
Verano got its township approvals months ago and just needed the final piece from the township subcommittee, which it got Monday.
“As far as Neptune Township is concerned, (Verano) is free to sell recreational use marijuana as of last night,” said Bernie Haney, the township’s Director of Land Use, who confirmed the 4-0 vote in favor of the firm’s expansion into adult sales at its two-year old medical dispensary on 2100 NJ Route 66.
TerrAscend began selling adult weed under The Apothecarium banner in Maplewood and Phillipsburg on April 21. A month later it received state approvals for Lodi.
The Apothecarium’s opening in Lodi Tuesday featured the debut of the state’s first drive-thru dispensary, which sits off Route 17 and Interstate-80.
The drive-thru is open to both recreational customers and recurring medical marijuana patients, company officials said. New medical marijuana patients must go inside for their first visit. The store encourages those wanting to use the drive-thru to order online and wait for a notification that the order is ready.
The store sits at “two of the busiest highways in New Jersey, we expect the Apothecarium Lodi to be a strong contributor to our growth” Jason Wild, Executive Chairman of TerrAscend said in a press release.
The 5,000 square-foot dispensary features a spacious showroom and interactive “bud bar,” where shoppers can see and smell the product prior to purchase.
The Apothecarium Lodi is open from 9:00 A.M. to 9:00 P.M., seven days a week with dedicated medical patient services including priority lines and patient-only hours during the first two business hours of each day, 9 A.M. to 11 A.M.
New Jersey will have 19 stores selling legal weed once the ones in Montclair and Neptune Township open.
More are hoping to do the same, including a handful of existing dispensaries that sell strictly medical marijuana such as Bloc dispensary owned by Justice Cannabis Co. in Ewing Township which debuted on June 16.
On Thursday, Curaleaf is also listed on the CRC agenda to make its pitch to expand to adult sales in Bordentown.
With its Rochelle Park location opening three months ago and now securing final approvals for the Montclair site Monday, Ascend is likely to shift its focus to Fort Lee, where it wants to convert a former Staples store into its third store offering adult weed.
Our journalism needs your support. Please subscribe today to NJ.com
Suzette Parmley may be reached at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter: @SuzParmley