After denying the corporate marijuana giant's request to renew its licenses last week, Garden State regulators made an about-face and granted the renewals - with conditions.
Another corporate cannabis behemoth dodged a devasting bullet this week when New Jersey state marijuana regulators reversed their position just one week ago and gave Curaleaf, the largest marijuana company in the United States, a reprieve from their wrath over the company's questionable labor practices.
As first reported by the New Jersey Monitor, during an emergency meeting of the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission this past Monday convened to address Curaleaf's application to continue growing and selling recreational cannabis in the state, the regulatory body voted to grant the company a renewal of five annual licenses. A 4-1 vote passed the decision and came just three days after the Commission had voted to deny the Massachusetts-based company its request for license renewal.
Relieved and pleased by the decision, Curaleaf CEO Matt Darin hailed the result as an "incredible victory" for the multi-million dollar marijuana conglomerate. Following the vote, he said, "Curaleaf is in good standing with the CRC and has fulfilled every requirement necessary for the renewal of our licenses. I am incredibly proud of and grateful to every one of the hundreds of dedicated team members who showed up today, not just for their jobs and livelihoods, but for a better, safer cannabis industry in New Jersey."
"Curaleaf is in good standing with the CRC and has fulfilled every requirement necessary for the renewal of our licenses. I am incredibly proud of and grateful to every one of the hundreds of dedicated team members who showed up today, not just for their jobs and livelihoods, but for a better, safer cannabis industry in New Jersey."
- Curaleaf CEO Matt Darin
However, despite Darin's triumphant declaration, the decision to grant the licenses may have been made for reasons other than the CEO's self-righteous claims and grandstanding platitudes.
Many industry experts closely monitoring the proceedings believe the commissioners reversed their positions as a result of pleas not from Curaleaf's executive leadership team but from the rank-and-file employees who held a rally in Trenton just a few hours before the emergency meeting in opposition to the CRC's decision to deny the license renewals last Thursday.
The main reason for denying Curaleaf the renewals last week was its treatment of employees attempting to unionize. Several commission members specifically cited the company's clash with workers over the issue of establishing a union as their reasoning for denying the license renewal request.
As a result, the license renewals will depend on the company meeting certain conditions regarding the treatment of its employees. According to the Commission chair, Dianna Houneou, by the CRC's next meeting, the company must provide evidence that it is negotiating with union employees in good faith, testify under oath to its "activities and tactics," produce records concerning plans to change its New Jersey operations and provide information on hiring employees and vendors that meet "certain criteria."
The next Commission meeting will take place on June 1. If Curaleaf has not met the outlined conditions, the CRC can issue penalties, including fines and revocation of the renewed licenses.
Following Monday's meeting, Commissioner Krista Nash echoed the collective sentiments of many Commission members when she said last week's vote represents a wake-up call for companies that "did not understand or appreciate their obligations as it concerns labor relations. If the meeting served to remind companies of that obligation, then the CRC has done its job," she said. "Let me make this very clear — it is time that we favor people over profits."
"If the meeting served to remind companies of that obligation, then the CRC has done its job," she said. "Let me make this very clear — it is time that we favor people over profits."
- NJ CRC Commissioner Krista Nash
The CRC's decision to change its mind and grant Curaleaf the license renewals came as welcome relief for workers caught in the crossfire of the company's battle with the regulatory agency. Many of those present at Monday's protest said they were not rallying in support of Curaleaf but were there to help keep workers from losing their jobs.
One of those employees, Jared Mood, who works in manufacturing for Curaleaf, expressed his sincere appreciation for the Commission's attempt to impose punitive sanctions against his employer but felt that denying the licenses would only serve to injure workers.
He said, "We're not anti-getting their license back. It's just more like, get the license back with the right pathway or the right work. Don't just brush it under the rug and go back on Tuesday to the same thing."
"We're not anti-getting their license back. It's just more like, get the license back with the right pathway or the right work. Don't just brush it under the rug and go back on Tuesday to the same thing."
- Jared Mood, Curaleaf Manufacturing Employee
For now, the CRC's actions will keep two of Curaleaf's retail dispensaries open that would have had to shut down this Friday without the renewals. However, between now and June 1, all eyes will be sharply focused on Curaleaf's response to the significant stipulations outlined by the CRC for the company to keep those licenses in good standing.
So, while it is not a complete victory for proponents of keeping "Big Marijuana" in check, it is a massive and very public step in the right direction.