Harmony Dispensary receives state approval for recreational cannabis sales

The medical dispensary is the first in New Jersey to expand to adult-use recreational sales

Harmony Dispensary, a medical cannabis dispensary in Secaucus, has received approval from the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) to begin selling recreational adult-use cannabis. The nonprofit medical cannabis dispensary had been working toward this end for many months, much to the anticipation of eager future customers across Hudson County.

The commission voted 4-1 on Friday, Dec. 2, to approve Harmony’s expansion of operations to include recreational cannabis sales under its vertically integrated medical permits. The facility near where Castle Road meets Meadowlands Parkway, which was among the first few medical dispensaries in the state after it opened in 2018, can now begin selling recreational cannabis to adults over the age of 21 in the next few weeks.

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At the NJCRC meeting on Dec. 2, which was streamed online, Executive Director Jeff Brown said that Harmony was among four facility-modification applications that the state had approved. Additionally, Harmony was also approved for medical home delivery.

Later in the meeting, Brown explained his recommendation for approval for the alternative treatment center’s (ATC) adult-use expansion application. Brown added that the NJCRC’s considerations for the application was focused on patients, the number of patients enrolled statewide, patient enrollment at the specific ATC, inventory statewide and at the ATC, sales statewide and at the ATC, the current medical cannabis canopy, the canopy needed to serve enrolled patients, and the ATC’s production capacity.

“When an alternative treatment center entity permitted to operate in our medical market wants to expand to adult use sales, they have to meet a number of statutory and regulatory provisions,” Brown said. “These include municipal approval, proof of sufficient supply to continue to meet patient need after expansion, plans to ensure patient access, and plans to address social equity and safety.”

According to Brown, the Harmony Foundation, which operates Harmony Dispensary, had submitted their plans to expand into adult-use sales. According to Brown, they include adding point-of-sale systems for patients only, have undergone a facility modification to their dispensary, have committed to all the patient access standards and provisions that the commission has recommended and included with other ATC expansions. Because of that, he said Harmony Foundation’s application was recommended for approval, which includes both cultivation and dispensing at the facility in Secaucus and cultivation and manufacturing at its Lafayette facility.

Harmony Dispensary received a Class 1 cultivation license for its facilities in Secaucus and Lafayette, at 144 Route 94, a Class 2 manufacturing license for the Lafayette facility, and a Class 5 retailer license for the Secaucus facility. While the Secaucus facility is both a dispensary and cultivation location, the Lafayette facility is only for cultivation and manufacturing.

There was also a condition of approval included in the recommendation. Brown said that if the dispensary could not adequately serve patients at its medical-only point-of-sale systems, then it would have to add more or convert some of the adult-use point-of-sale systems.

“Our recommendation of this approval is that the issuance of the Class 1 cultivator license is conditioned on the first harvest from their Lafayette facility,” Brown said. “This is to ensure that the cultivation in Secaucus continues to meet the needs of patients while their new cultivation capacity is fully operational … They are opening new patient-only point-of-sale systems. If those are insufficient, a condition is that they will have to move their adult-use point-of-sale systems back to serving patients as well if the patient-only point-of-sale systems are not sufficient to meet the needs of patients.

The move follows Harmony Dispensary’s expansion application not being approved by the state board in October after filing its application in July. It was expected to be on the NJCRC’s October agenda, but it was not, which in response, CEO of Harmony Foundation Shaya Brodchanel called the move “inexplicable” and a “delay.” Meanwhile, spokeswoman for the NJCRC Toni-Anne Blake said that Harmony’s certification was still under review. While it wasn’t clear then what the hold-up was, it seems it may have been related to the aforementioned conditions of approval relating to cultivation and point-of-sale systems.

The NJCRC approved Harmony’s expansion from medical only to recreational cannabis sales at its December meeting.

Town is ready for recreational sales at Harmony Dispensary

Meanwhile, the town of Secaucus has already given all necessary approvals to Harmony. The town has been preparing for it in recent months, further ironing out things relating to its cannabis ordinances like license applications as more entities seek to apply to open.

Secaucus originally banned recreational cannabis sales temporarily in 2021 via an ordinance prior to the state deadline to enact local parameters or automatically have it all permitted. At that time, Town Administrator Gary Jeffas said the ban was a placeholder until the town figured out where and how it wanted to allow recreational sales.

In May of this year, the Town Council lifted the ban after it ironed out all the details. That new ordinance outlined the rules and regulations for the local industry in town.

With that, Secaucus limited the area where dispensaries and the like can open in a light industrial area. That area consists of five warehouse lots on Castle Road, of which one of the lots is where Harmony Dispensary is already operating with an official address of 600 Meadowlands Parkway.

After the state approval, Harmony has a new pop-up on its website that reads: ​​“Congratulations Adult Use Patrons of NJ. W​e look forward to serving you soon, but at this time Harmony Dispensary is MEDICAL ONLY.​ Stay tuned!​“

According to Harmony Dispensary’s website, the company still only serving medical-use patients with valid NJMMP ID cards and plans to enter the adult-use recreational market in the “very near future,” and encourages eager customers to sign up for its newsletter “to stay up to date” about the announcement while it continues to serve medical patients.

“Harmony looks forward to continuing to serve the patients of NJ and the new Adult Use Cannabis community,” according to the company website.

Following the NJCRC approval, Shaya Brodchandel, the Harmony Foundation CEO, put out a press release celebrating the action that makes the medical dispensary the first in the state to expand to recreational sales. Brodchandel said that they “have been preparing for this for a long time.”

“This is a historic day for Harmony, and, we believe, for the growing cannabis industry in New Jersey,” Brodchandel said in a statement. “As the first New Jersey-based ATC to expand into the adult-use market we are going to show that cannabis businesses born in this state have the ability to join those multi-state operators and thrive, reinvesting our successes into our local communities.”

According to Brodchandel, Harmony is ready to sell recreational cannabis to adults while maintaining its supply to medical patients. Part of this plan to enter the recreational market in addition to the medical market translates to the planned medical dispensaries by Harmony in Hoboken and Jersey City.

“We are ready to begin welcoming a new population of clients, while simultaneously giving our longtime patients the same great service they deserve and have become accustomed to,” Brodchandel said. “We have a proven track record of serving the medical cannabis community for many years, and we will not turn our back on those that use our products for health purposes.”

The move marks a shift in the recreational adult-use industry, given that it is currently dominated by eight large multi-state operators that own the 21 dispensaries presently licensed to sell. Most of those entities have maxed out the limit of three dispensaries each, but three have not, meaning that total can be brought up to 24. However, Harmony will likely be the first smaller and New Jersey-based entity to operate a dispensary in the state once sales begin, right here in Hudson County. Brodchandel hopes Harmony will be an example to local entities seeking to enter the market, which is expected to continue to experience massive growth each year.

Brodchandel concluded: “Harmony has a commitment to the state and people of New Jersey. As Harmony continues to grow, and achieve even greater business success, our core mission will match the intentions of Governor [Phil] Murphy for the industry and be a force for lifting up others that have previously not been afforded opportunities for entrepreneurial success.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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