MONTCLAIR — The first medical marijuana dispensary in the state, formerly Greenleaf Compassion Center, has reopened as Ascend, which is owned by multi-state cannabis operator Ascend Wellness Holdings.
Ascend officials said the redesigned dispensary has an expanded line of cannabis products and will be open for longer hours on more days of the week.
“The feedback from the original owner is that the product line was always lean; patients couldn’t always get what they wanted,” said CEO and founder Abner Kurtain.
Greenleaf Compassion Center was founded by Julio Valentin, who sold the facility to Ascend last year. He will continue to operate Greenleaf Café next door.
A second medical marijuana dispensary could join Ascend on Bloomfield Avenue by year’s end. Colorado-based Lightshade Labs has an application pending with the state Health Department; approval has been delayed by COVID and lawsuits by operators whose applications were denied, say Lightshade officials.
Lightshade’s local team includes Rohan Marley, son of reggae legend and cannabis advocate Bob Marley. Rohan Marley raised five children in South Orange with Grammy winner Lauryn Hill.
Such dispensaries serve only holders of medical marijuana cards, who use weed for conditions such as pain and anxiety. However, with new laws permitting the sale of recreational weed at state-licensed dispensaries, the operators have footholds to expand into recreational weed.
In answer to questions about Ascend’s plans to sell recreational marijuana, Kurtain said, “We’d love to see this location expand. Let’s see what the regulations look like when they finally release them and see how we come together.”
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According to Ascend’s website, the company plans to open a medical marijuana dispensary in Rochelle Park this year, followed by Hoboken, and will expand its cultivation center in Franklin.
Kurtain said support among town officials and a track record of safety were selling points to opening in Montclair.
“We’ve met with Chief [Todd] Conforti multiple times and he’s been invaluable,” he said.
The chief was at an opening event Tuesday, along with other local and county officials, including Mayor Sean Spiller.
Councilor Bob Russo said Montclair could be an example for other New Jersey communities hesitant to open dispensaries. “We are the model for having a very good medical marijuana program, with no problems for eight years, and that’s the way we are going to keep it,” he said. “We are the first and we want to be the best.”
Ascend’s dispensary, which employs 30 people, will also be an economic engine, bringing customers to a downtown that has been devastated by the COVID pandemic, Kurtain said.
Since there are only about a dozen medical marijuana dispensaries in the state, customers can come from an hour or more away.
Business will also grow once the Seymour Street development directly across the street opens later this year.
Julia Martin covers Montclair for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
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