When Jamil Taylor, CEO of alternative treatment center licensee Justice Grown New Jersey, set up a medical cannabis facility in Pennsylvania, he would host events called Marijuana Mondays: events where community members could show up and ask any cannabis-related questions that came to mind.
The events attracted all sorts of people, he said, across age groups and areas of concern.
“You get a broad range,” he said.
Taylor spoke on a panel alongside four out of five of the new ATC licensees on a variety of topics, including the importance of education around cannabis going beyond just patients: education of the community, education of law enforcement, and education of regulators.
The panel was hosted at Forsgate Country Club in Monroe by NJ Cannabis Media and moderated by its chief contact officer Marc Schwarz. Joy Strand, executive director of the Maryland Medical Cannabis Commission, was the event’s keynote.
TerrAscend CEO Michael Nashat, Green Thumb Industries New Jersey CEO Devra Karlebach, CEO and COO of Verano New Jersey George Archos, and Vice President of Corporate Affairs for Columbia Care LLC Adam Goers joined Taylor on the panel. A representative from MPX New Jersey, which has a dispensary planned in Atlantic City and cultivation in Galloway, was not on the panel.
To gain a community’s trust, data points that break down stereotypes and stigma are key, according to Karlebach.
Opioid deaths fall by 30 percent where there is a medical marijuana program, she said, and teen consumption use drops. You start to break down those stereotypes and stigmatisms.
Having a record of compliance to share is a big help as well, she said.
“Once you break down how you track, how you monitor, how you dispense to these cities and towns or consumers…most medical patients that are coming in have some idea what medical marijuana is, but to go in front of regulators and the towns themselves, they want to see ‘how are you going to do this legally, what is your plan?’” Karlebach said.
All the ATC applicants awarded licenses in November are up and running in other states, and in some cases, other countries. But they all spoke of local commitment, of hiring New Jersey contractors to build out their sites and local people to work on their facilities.
And the type of workforce here is on their side: New Jersey is no stranger to industries with high regulation, Nashat pointed out.
“New Jersey is well known for its regulated industries from a manufacturing perspective, from a food perspective, and a pharmaceutical product production perspective,” he said. “So quality assurance people, quality control, regulatory affairs, operations, sanitation…all these are jobs that we’re going to bring to the New Jersey market.”