Town approves recreational marijuana license for Maplewood shop

The Maplewood Township Committee approved a recreational cannabis license for TerrAscend, which runs the Apothecarium on Springfield Avenue, at its meeting on April 5.

MAPLEWOOD, NJ — As legal recreational cannabis sales are set to begin in the state a year and a half after voters approved the measure in the November 2020 election, Maplewood is one of the towns where a facility will be permitted to sell. The facility is operated by TerrAscend, which already has locations in Phillipsburg and Lodi; Maplewood is the company’s third location in New Jersey. According to Mayor Dean Dafis, companies hoping to operate a business apply to the state for a license and then apply for a local license.

The Maplewood Township Committee approved the license with a vote of 3-1 at a meeting on April 5; Committeewoman Jamaine Cripe was absent, and Committeeman Frank McGehee cast the opposing vote. The town’s approval was contingent on the approval of a state license, and the company’s payment of the 2021 taxes, writing a diversity and inclusion plan, and not hiring armed security guards for the store.

“That is why we created a local ordinance with criteria of what we would like to look at and would like to consider to provide local endorsement,” Dafis said at the meeting. “We’ve been reviewing the applications on a rolling basis as they come in.”

TerrAscend already operates the Apothecarium in Maplewood, which opened last year and sells medicinal cannabis. The recreational license would be used in the same store. General manager Thyana Lorel Jannah said the store will be set up to separate which customers will be purchasing medicinal cannabis and which will be purchasing recreational.

“We are extremely thrilled to welcome the increased tourism and traffic to Maplewood,” she said at the meeting. “Our store layout and setup are primed for high-speed customer traffic and safety. We’re relying on technology to keep systems running very smoothly.”

Deputy Mayor Vic DeLuca asked about community participation and education and how it would continue with a local license; Jannah spoke about the job fair at the Maplewood Public Library in February 2021, from which six employees were hired. There are currently 20 job openings that the company is looking to fill locally.

“We’ve been as involved as possible,” she said. “We’ve gone around and introduced ourselves in the year that we’ve been in this space, and we can’t thank the community enough for being extremely welcoming and curious. As we go through this transition into adult use, we’re looking forward to opening our doors even more.”

Through the final three financial quarters of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, the Maplewood Apothecarium has made $5,495,263.11 in gross income, according to the financial statement shared at the meeting by Jerry DeLorenzo, TerrAscend’s director of facilities and security. Maplewood will collect approximately $75,669.33 in taxes for 2021 from the business. Committeewoman Nancy Adams asked what the estimated revenue would be with the local recreational license.

“We are expecting five to 10 times that, though it’s sort of unknown,” TerrAscend Vice President of Northeast Retail Chantelle Elsner said at the meeting. “We looked at projections from a lot of other states that have converted, but Jersey is very unique being in the tristate area. Obviously, there’s going to be a ramp-up period, but there will definitely be a substantial increase.”

An average of 100 customers per day pass through the dispensary now, and Elsner said they expect to move closer to 1,000 customers with a recreational license on peak retail days, such as Fridays. The average order size for recreational users tends to be smaller than the average order size of a medical user.

“Again, with New Jersey, it’s a unique market,” Elsner said. “We do expect the patient base to stay pretty strong. Five to 15 times the amount is the range that we should see within the next couple of years.”

New Jersey is unique in that the location of the state is much closer to other state borders, as opposed to Arizona, where Elsner lived previously.

“When Arizona converted over to adult use, their city centers are usually close to the middle of the state. You’re not getting a lot of bordering people coming, because it’s a six-hour drive to get to where the concentration of dispensaries are,” she said. “Now, I live in Pennsylvania and I can drive two hours and arrive in Maplewood; people in New York can drive to Maplewood. It’s the same thing for Delaware. So, I think we’re going to see a lot of traffic from other states exploring an adult-use market, which brings in a lot of additional revenue.”

The state Cannabis Regulatory Commission awarded TerrAscend a state license on April 11; Elsner said the company would be ready to begin selling recreational cannabis within a month depending on when the state allows sales to begin.