Curaleaf is the biggest maker and seller of recreational marijuana in New Jersey. On Thursday, the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission decided not to renew the company’s annual license. This is likely to temporarily stop sales in the state’s legal market, which has been open for a year.
It’s not clear what people who shop at Curaleaf’s stores in Bellmawr, Bordentown, and Edgewater Park should think about the decision. The commission, which is also known as the CRC, could not be reached right away for comment.
Curaleaf officials put out a harsh statement hours after the vote, calling the actions “unprecedented” and “an outrageous act of political revenge.”
“Curaleaf is still open for business, and we will continue to work with the CRC Board and its staff to make sure that our licenses for adult use are renewed, even if we have to do so illegally,” the company said in a statement.
“Today’s decision by the CRC Board is arbitrary and has no basis in law or reason,” the statement said. “Most alarming is that it will hurt our employees—nearly 500 New Jersey residents who work for Curaleaf—as much as it will hurt the cannabis market in New Jersey as a whole.”
Insiders in the industry said that they thought it was likely that people over 21 would soon no longer be able to buy marijuana for recreational use, but that patients listed with the state’s medical marijuana program would not be affected.
The office of Gov. Phil Murphy did not say anything.
The vote is likely to shock the new industry, which has been eager to get in on the ground floor of what will likely be a multi-billion-dollar market. Even though more than 1,700 growers, sellers, manufacturers, and other businesses in the recreational weed industry have been approved, six of the seven companies offering recreational weed were approved more than a decade ago.
In December, BLOC Dispensary in Ewing and Franklin Township, Somerset County, opened as an alternative treatment center for medical marijuana. In March, they started selling to people over the age of 21.
But at its monthly meeting in Trenton on Thursday night, the five-member committee made it clear that it was willing to slow the growth of the market to deal with complaints from workers and other problems.
The United Food and Commercial Workers Local 360 filed a complaint with the National Labor Relations Board in February, saying that Curaleaf made it harder to unionize the Bellmawr cultivation plant.
State law requires cannabis businesses to have a “labor peace agreement,” which shows that they are willing to work with unions and workers who want to join one.
When it came time to vote on whether or not to renew Curaleaf’s annual license, Vice Chairman Sam Delgado was the only one to vote yes. Chairwoman Dianna Houenou and Maria Del Cid-Kosso didn’t vote, but Charles Barker and Krista G. Nash did. To extend the license, there had to be three “yes” votes.
“It’s hard for me to vote,” Houenou said, adding that she had “big questions and worries.”
She was surprised by Curaleaf’s sudden news last month that it was closing its Bellmawr plantation, which would put up to 40 people out of work.
Officials from Curaleaf told the commission that all of the workers except for five had been offered jobs at other places.
Houenou said she was upset that Curaleaf hadn’t given the state any warning. She said, “It’s important for the board and staff to have the right information and know about it on time.”
Officials told Houenou how Curaleaf had given $1 million to charities and other “strategic partnerships” across the country. Houenou praised Curaleaf’s commitment to the areas where it works.
But in other parts of the application, she said, “it seems like a lot of information is missing that can be given and should be given in a clear and honest way to the commission.”
Curaleaf said in its statement that there is no requirement in state law or rules that cuts be reported to the commission.
“Today’s unprecedented action by the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission’s Board—which overrode the Commission’s own staff recommendation that our adult use licenses be renewed—is an outrageous act of political retaliation for our need to consolidate production into one local facility,” the statement said.
“Politicizing cannabis in this way will only hurt the state’s new cannabis business even more. Curaleaf’s statement said, “To be clear, we are in good standing with the CRC and have met all the requirements for the renewal of our licenses.”
Curaleaf is one of the biggest companies in the country that makes and sells marijuana. The company has about 6,000 employees all over the country. Last year, it cut 270 jobs, including 50 when it closed a plant in Sacramento.
A lawyer who has worked in the cannabis business for a long time but asked to remain anonymous praised the commission for “flexing” its power. “This should wake up a lot of these businesses. This government official is not joking around.”
A former employee of Curaleaf is suing the company for harassment because he or she spoke up during an investigation into alcohol use at one of the company’s dispensaries.