Heated Debates Ensue During NJ Cannabis Commission Meeting Over Cannabis Operator Penalties

Heated debates ensue as the NJ CRC reviews penalties for regulatory compliance concerns
The NJ CRC meeting

Heated debates took center stage during a recent New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission meeting about imposing penalties on two of the state’s leading multi-state operators – Terrascend and Columbia Care. The NJ CRC meeting took place on Sept. 8, 2023 in Trenton.

penalties for violations pertaining to medical patients at Terrascend NJ

Terrascend faces penalties for repeatedly favoring recreational users over medical patients despite prior warnings. Medical patients reported being encouraged to purchase products from the recreational menu, resulting in higher costs and additional taxes. 

“The lack of detailed employee training records leaves me no choice but to doubt the effectiveness of Terrascend’s corrective actions in preventing further mistreatment of our registered patients,” said Commission Chair Dianna Houenou. Houenou proposed a $100,000 fine on Terrascend.

Commissioner Charles Barker added: “This may not be an egregious fine considering their business size. It could serve as a course correction and signal that New Jersey is committed to maintaining a premier cannabis industry.”

Other commissioners disagreed with the amount of the fine. “Honestly, I find it shocking, extremely shocking, the amount prescribed to Terrascend. I think it’s excessive, and I disagree with you,” said Vice Chair Sam Delgado.

columbia care allows their labor peace agreement to lapse

Columbia Care faces fines due to a lapse in their labor peace agreement during the license renewal process, spanning 13 days.  A labor peace agreement is an arrangement between a union and an employer in which one or both sides agree to waive certain rights under federal law about union organizing and related activity. 

Commissioner Krista Nash moved to impose a $50,000 penalty against Columbia Care. “We must prioritize labor peace agreements as a mandatory requirement for licensure, regardless of the duration of the lapse,” Hash said.  She highlighted Columbia Care’s long-standing presence in the industry, saying, “These are not newcomers; they’ve been here for a significant period.”

The New Jersey cannabis industry typically generates daily revenues ranging from $30,000 to $60,000. While these fines may seem substantial to smaller, single-state operators, they represent only a fraction of the annual earnings of major corporations like Terrascend and Columbia Care.

The prevailing concern with these penalties is the challenging licensing process. Many licensees, especially those awaiting approval to commence operations, continue to grapple with prolonged waiting periods, leading to substantial operational and financial setbacks. 

Streamlining the licensing process and establishing transparent timelines could alleviate these challenges, benefiting those eager to participate in New Jersey’s cannabis market. During the NJ CRC meeting’s public comment period, Gabriella Wilday from Molly Ann Farms in Haledon, NJ expressed concerns regarding licensing delays. She suggested, “Perhaps you would consider reallocating the $50,000 fine imposed for a 13-day labor peace agreement lapse among my employees who endured 20 days without income.”

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