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This NJ dispensary is booming thanks to Pennsylvania’s bad weed laws

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A store across the river from Philadelphia is making boatloads from cross-border customers.

Medical cannabis dispensaries have been open in Pennsylvania since 2018. But the state’s 343,634 patients (2.68% of state population) still struggle to find affordable medicine.

Non-medical consumers are also growing tired of Pennsylvania’s archaic possession laws, along with broken promises from lawmakers that a legal rec market is coming soon.

But the Curaleaf store in Bellmawr, New Jersey, isn’t complaining about the lack of access and affordability in PA. Located just a short drive over the NJ-PA border from Philadelphia, the store’s budtenders are selling roughly 11 packs of 3.5 grams per minute during business hours, according to early estimates from Mike Regan of MJ Research Co.

Federal and state law forbid visitors from taking cannabis across state lines. But that doesn’t seem to be stopping a lot of Pennsylvanians from driving down the road to purchase legal, lab-tested products.

NBC-WGAL in Lancaster, Pennsylvania reported seeing “a number of vehicles in Curaleaf’s (Bellmawr) parking lot had out-of-state license plates, including tags from The Keystone State. Some PA medical patients may be drawn by NJ’s recreational prices of $45-$60 per 3.5 grams of flower, instead of the $60 average they see back home. And they’re definitely taking note of the $28-$50 range that New Jersey medical patients are now paying for an eighth.

New Jersey dispensary line (Jon Bain / Leafly)
Recreational cannabis buyers stand in line at Curaleaf’s Bellmawr, New Jersey dispensary on day one of adult-use sales, April 21, 2022. (Jon Bain / Leafly)

Curaleaf executives said in an earnings call this month that the company’s Bellmawr store is on pace for $100 million in revenue this year, up from $50 million before day one of adult-use sales. At that run rate, Regan estimates that the Bellmawr location is collecting around $274,000 per day, or $4.9 million since April 21.

With 131 retail locations in 22 states, Curaleaf is the nation’s largest state-licensed cannabis operation, according to Barrons.

All NJ dispensaries brought in almost $2 million from 12,000 customers in their first day of sales, according to New Jersey’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission. With more cultivators and providers entering the market soon, the Garden State could be seeing green for as long as it takes for their neighbors to catch up.

PA officials aren’t happy with current pot market, either

In December, Pennsylvania Gov. Tim Wolfe told lawmakers to get the state’s recreational cannabis market moving quickly. But his tweets on the topic haven’t inspired Republicans and Democrats to get on the same page about how to roll out a healthy legal weed market.

“Pennsylvanians have spoken, and they want to see us legalize recreational marijuana.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf

Legalization advocates are hoping the boatloads of cash lawmakers are seeing drive over the river to New Jersey will help create more urgency.

John Collins, recently retired director of Pennsylvania’s Office of Medical Marijuana, warned the Philadephia Inquirer that price fixing among large corporation is a real issue in PA’s medical cannabis market. In March, the State Health Department demanded an investigation into accusations of price gouging in the industry, and others have pointed out that falling wholesale prices are not being reflected on dispensary menus.

PA’s medical program was signed into law back in 2016, but patients are still waiting for prices to fall, with some patients spending up to $1,500 per month to secure their medicine legally.

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf put recreational marijuana legalization at the top of his autumn 2020 legislative agenda, but hasn't fully delivered yet. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)
Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf put recreational marijuana legalization at the top of his autumn 2020 legislative agenda, but hasn’t fully delivered yet. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Only buyers in Illinois pay more per eighth of legal flower ($60.42) than patients in Pennsylvania ($58.86 per 3.5 grams), nationally. Those high prices can force those with debilitating conditions to turn to street sellers, saving 50% or more by shopping with unlicensed dealers. Those products lack the lab-tested purity, quality, and dosing assurance of legal products. But for some patients, the high prices in dispensaries leave them little choice.

What to expect at NJ dispensaries

So far, NJ shoppers report fast lines and pleasant experiences, thanks to automated ordering systems and separate checkout lines for medical and recreational buyers.

Related

After a huge first week, New Jersey still hasn’t run out of weed

In March, NJ regulators said the state was 100,000 pounds short of the legal supply needed to meet the expected flood of demand from New York and Pennsylvania consumers. CRC officials worried the 15-minute drive over the Delaware River from Philadelphia could overwhelm locations like Bellmawr’s Curaleaf. But that location has not suffered any major shortages for medical or recreational buyers to date.

The same is true for North Jersey dispensaries like RISE’s Bloomfield and Paterson locations, and Montclair’s Ascend dispensary, which are all just a short drive from New York City, another major metro area full of eager customers.

How NJ got ahead in the tri-state cannabis race

Curaleaf is one of the fully-vertical cannabis companies that’s been serving New Jersey’s medical patients for years. In April, Curaleaf’s Bellmawr location became one of 7 medical providers (known as alternative treatment centers) to receive permission to open some of their existing dispensaries to recreational buyers.

The expansion plan was highly scrutinized by residents and the state’s CRC board. Many advocates demanded full transparency of the licensing process, and prioritization of applicants from marginalized groups.

On March 15, the CRC started reviewing hundreds of new applications for retail dispensary licenses, but no awardees have been announced yet. The board had approved 102 applications for cultivators and manufacturers as of April 11.

Related

New Jersey is accepting cannabis license applications. Here’s how to apply

As of March 31, the CRC received 732 license applications. 511 of those were from Diversely-Owned Businesses (70%), 213 from Social Equity Businesses (29%), and 310 from Impact Zone Businesses (42%), according to the CRC. Of the 732 applications received, 410 applications are now under priority review. 

Travel safely if you choose to purchase

Every legal state that borders an illegal state sees booming sales at stores near the border. In Oregon, for example, stores near the Idaho border see a steady stream of Idaho license plates outside their doors. In the early days of adult-use legalization in Colorado, Kansas state troopers hung out on the border to profile and bust traveling tree-lovers. But a federal court eventually brought that to a halt, ruling that Kansas cops couldn’t stop vehicles just because they had Colorado plates.

There are no reports of state trooper traps in Pennsylvania so far, but it’s smart to take precautions. Always lock your purchase in your trunk, no matter where you’re traveling.

In the meantime, Curaleaf is building at least two new locations in New Jersey that will be larger than the booming Bellmawr shop. Just in case Pennsylvania lawmakers needed an extra push to get things moving.

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Joe Evans

Joe Evans is a journalist, writer, editor, and contributor to Where’s Weed, Leafly and more, with over 5,000 published articles on topics like cannabis, politics, automotive news, sports, pop culture, and even a cult. You can follow him on Twitter @JoeEvansBlogs.

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Montana cannabis stores open to happy customers braving freezing temps

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It was three degrees this morning in Missoula, Montana, but that didn’t stop customers from lining up for the first day of legal marijuana sales. When the clock struck 10 a.m., happy Montanans poured into the Spark1 dispensary—now licensed to sell to everyone 21 and older—in downtown Missoula.

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Customers line up in 3-degree temperatures outside Spark1 in Missoula on New Year’s Day, ready to purchase on Montana’s first day of adult-use marijuana sales. (Photo: Ariana Newton)

David Williams was one of the first customers in the door after waiting outside for nearly half an hour in freezing temperatures. A big fan of concentrates, Williams bought six different grams of shatter, and two varieties of crumble.

“These people in line have so much enthusiasm,” he told Leafly.

As sales began, the staff was nothing short of giddy. “It feels like a lot of hard work coming to fruition,” said Spark1 CEO Marc Lax.

photo-of-Spark-One-CEO
Spark1 CEO Marc Lax awaits the first customers of 2022. (Photo: Max Savage Levenson)

Related

How to find Montana’s open adult-use cannabis stores

Montana voters agreed to legalize and regulate cannabis for all adults back in the Nov. 2020 election, with the passage of Initiative 190. It became legal to possess up to one ounce a year ago—Jan. 1, 2021—but it took an extra year for Montana’s retail licensing system to get up and running.

Leafly’s Max Savage Levenson will have more reports from Montana’s retail stores as the state’s opening day progresses. Check back soon.

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Max Savage Levenson

Max Savage Levenson likely has the lowest cannabis tolerance of any writer on the cannabis beat. He also writes about music for Pitchfork, Bandcamp and other bespectacled folk. He co-hosts The Hash podcast. His dream interview is Tyler the Creator.

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Mexico has a new marijuana legalization bill. Here’s what’s in it

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Mexican lawmakers appear to be closer to legalizing cannabis nationwide, as a new version of a draft bill is now circulating among senators in the Congress of the Union.

Senior ruling party figures have expressed support for legalization, and the latest bill has been leaked but has not yet been presented in any official manner.

The latest iteration is considered more progressive than previous versions, as it would include some safeguards against corporate takeovers and eliminate earlier proposed permits for personal consumption. 

Here’s an overview of the provisions contained in the new bill.

A possession limit of one ounce

The new bill is broadly similar to a previous one approved by the Senate last year. For adults of age, possession of up to one ounce (28 grams) of cannabis would be legal. A person in possession of 29 grams to 200 grams (seven ounces) would risk a fine of $500 or more.

Penalties rise for possession of greater weight. Anyone holding more than seven ounces could be charged with a crime carrying a sentence of up to three years in prison.

The limit for personal purchase would also be 28 grams within any 24-hour period.

Related

Mexico is moving to legalize cannabis in 2021. What does that mean for the US?

Retail stores would open 18 months after passage

Licenses for retail cannabis stores would have to be issued within 18 months of the law’s passage.

Cannabis social clubs allowed, but restricted

Under the new legalization proposal, cannabis social clubs would be legal but limited to a maximum of 20 members, each growing four plants each.

Some observers believe this would be unconstitutional due to the laws governing civil associations—plus the right of free association. 

Cannabis social clubs would not be permitted to promote the use of cannabis. It has been suggested the limiting of social clubs to such degrees could be a delaying tactic that could stymie the introduction of the law and force the issue back to court.

Install indoor barriers?

Another controversial clause in the new bill is a rule that cannabis smokers would have to install physical barriers indoors to prevent secondhand smoke from circulating. 

Like the limitations on social clubs, this clause is largely considered unworkable.

Related

History Made: Mexico’s Supreme Court Strikes Down Cannabis Prohibition

The smoking of cannabis would also be prohibited in the presence of those who had not consented . This provision is widely considered impossible to supervise.

Illegal to work after consuming?

One profoundly vague clause in the new bill would make it illegal to work under the effect of cannabis. It’s not at all clear how this provision would be enforced by employers, by the self-employed, or in the case of those who work remotely or from home offices.

40% of grow licenses reserved for rural farmers

The victims of Mexico’s war on drugs in the context of cannabis are widely considered to be the nation’s poor farmers.

One of the most significant measures in the current legalization bill is a clause to grant 40% of cultivation licenses to rural communities. It would be active for at least five years, after which point only 20% of grow licenses would be reserved for rural communities. 

Serious time for clandestine growing

Farmers found cultivating without a cannabis license would risk a potential jail term of up to six years.

Two-acre farming plots

Licensees would generally be granted 10,000 square meters (roughly 2.5 acres) each outdoors, and up to 1,000 square meters indoors. Government regulators would have the power to increase the area granted, with a focus on such exceptions for marginalized communities and farmers.

Who would regulate cannabis?

In the current bill, a specific cannabis agency operating under the Ministry of Health would regulate grow permits and conduct education campaigns following legalization.

Members of the lower house, the Cámara de Diputados, last year indicated they preferred to put regulatory powers in the hands of an existing “anti-addiction” drug control ministry.

Expungement remains unclear

It remains unclear whether criminal records related to people who committed cannabis crimes rendered obsolete under the new law would be cleared. One senator estimated that hundreds of Mexicans are currently incarcerated for simple possession offenses.  

Will this version finally pass?

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has not been supportive of legalization, despite previously calling for an end to the war on drugs. He recently suggested the possibility of a referendum on the issue. This time last year, he claimed minor “mistakes” in the proposed law had stalled legislation.

The majority leader in the Senate, Ricardo Monreal Avila from the ruling Morena party, has been a vocal supporter of the reforms and the chamber has published tweets suggesting it is their number one priority.

Many clauses still under debate

The proposals contained in the new bill are to some degree in flux and could be subject to amendments, although some matters have been agreed among senators.

There remains significant resistance to the idea of total decriminalization. A number of influential senators are said to not want to liberalize rules to put cannabis on par with tobacco. That’s why the issue of allowing cannabis smoking in public places remains such a contentious one, even though it’s a key demand of many legalization advocates.

Other senators consider the latest bill a significant step forward and an improvement on the current situation.

Passed in the Senate by Dec. 15?

It has been suggested that the new bill will be approved in the Senate before the end of the voting session on Dec. 15, 2021. The lower house would then likely vote on it between February and April 2022.

Some civil society groups have welcomed the movement on the issue and have urged the health and justice committees to approve the bill so it can move to be voted on by both chambers of the legislature.

However, others remain opposed due to possibility of over-regulation and the continued criminalization of possession and cultivation, which they say undermines the commitments to social justice and human rights expressed in the Supreme Court’s previous rulings striking down prohibition.

The public circulation of this latest legalization bill comes during the same week that the Supreme Court of Mexico ruled that the federal prohibition on hemp cultivation for industrial purposes is unconstitutional.

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Mattha Busby

Mattha Busby is a freelance writer based in Mexico. His work has appeared in the Guardian, the Observer, Vice, GQ, and other publications.

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Here’s what’s in the new Republican marijuana legalization bill

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Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) earlier today unveiled the States Reform Act, a measure that would remove marijuana from the federal schedule of controlled substances and let each state regulate the substance as its leaders see fit.

Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) steps forward with an intriguing Republican proposal to end federal prohibition.

Most cannabis legalization measures have been led by Democrats, but the bill from the South Carolina representative breaks that pattern.

The States Reform Act puts a traditional Republican spin on legalization proposals by floating an extraordinarily low federal tax rate (3%) and omitting most social equity provisions.

Citing the supermajority of Americans who support cannabis decriminalization (70%, according to recent polls), Rep. Mace noted that “only 3 states today lack some form of legal cannabis (Idaho, Kansas, and Nebraska).”

“This legislation, I believe, has something for everyone. Whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican,” Mace said at a press conference this afternoon.

The MORE Act heads to the House floor Sept. 21. (miralex/iStock)
(miralex/iStock)

What is the States Reform Act?

According to a policy brief supplied by Mace’s office, the States Reform Act would “federally decriminalize cannabis and fully defer to state powers over prohibition and commercial regulation.”

“This bill will also limit a number of barriers inhibiting innovation and entrepreneurship in a free and open market,” she added.

So what’s in the bill? Here’s the full text of the bill. Leafly’s analysis of the measure continues below.

How would this affect current law?

Under the States Reform Act, cannabis would be removed from the federal schedule of controlled substances. Individual states would be free to prohibit, allow, and/or regulate marijuana as they see fit. As with alcohol, cannabis would no longer be illegal under federal law, but it could be prohibited under state law.

Would cannabis crimes be erased?

The Act promises “federal release and expungement for those convicted of nonviolent, cannabis-only related offenses.” This would include people convicted of federal cannabis offenses only. State-based offenses would need to be handled via the completely separate state judicial system.

police-marijuana-arrest
Authorities have used cannabis prohibition as a pretext to hassle and arrest peaceful citizens for generations. (AdobeStock)

Federal release and expungement would not be available for “cartel members, agents of cartel gangs or those convicted of driving under the influence (DUI),” according to an analysis supplied by Rep. Mace.

Rep. Mace’s office projects 2,600 releases at the federal level, but says that “state level releases and expungements will be left to each state to determine.”

Would medical marijuana be impacted?

The Act protects medical cannabis for the following uses: arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, sickle cell, HIV/AIDS, PTSD, and other medical uses per a state’s specific cannabis regulations.

Rep. Mace also pledges to “ensure the safe harbor of state medical cannabis programs and patient access while allowing for new medical research and products to be developed.”

What’s the tax rate?

Here’s where Rep. Mace’s measure differs significantly with previous legalization bids. Her proposed bill would impose a 3% federal excise tax on cannabis products. That’s dramatically lower than the 10% to 25% tax rate proposed in existing proposals put forward by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), and others.

How would the tax revenue be spent?

Here’s another difference with Democratic-led bills. Under the States Reform Act, a significant percentage of the federal cannabis excise tax revenue would go toward law enforcement programs, and not to social equity programs aimed at balancing the playing field for those most harmed by the War on Drugs. Here’s the breakdown:

  • 40% to federal law enforcement grant programs
  • 30% to support Small Business Administration funds for newly licensed small businesses
  • 10% to military veterans mental health programs
  • 5% to state opioid epidemic response programs
  • 5% to underage cannabis use prevention programs

Who’s backing the bill?

It’s unclear whether Rep. Mace has any Congressional Republican or Democratic co-sponsors at this time. The bill was endorsed by Americans for Prosperity, the Cannabis Freedom Alliance, and the Global Alliance for Cannabis Commerce.

Age restrictions

The States Reform Act does not impose a federally mandated age minimum, but rather incentivizes individual states to make cannabis legal only for adults age 21 and older, with medical exceptions for those under 21.

The measure also includes provisions to prevent advertising from reaching minors under the age of 21.

How will veterans be affected?

The bill protects military veterans by ensuring they will not be discriminated against in federal hiring for cannabis use, or lose their VA healthcare benefits simply because of legal adult use.

Want more info? Here’s Rep. Mace’s official policy brief on the bill. View her States Reform Act Press Conference here.



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