Home Events + News Greenleaf Medical Marijuana Compassion Center in Montclair Reopens as Ascend

Greenleaf Medical Marijuana Compassion Center in Montclair Reopens as Ascend

by Gabriela Lachapel O'Brien
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The same afternoon that New Jersey Governor Murphy signed three bills into law legalizing the recreational use of marijuana, one of the state’s first medical dispensaries, Greenleaf, reopened under new ownership — as ‘Ascend’ — with an expanded product selection. The location, at 395 Bloomfield Avenue, underwent interior renovations and expanded its offerings, but it is still only accessible to those enrolled in the state’s medical-marijuana program. 

greenleaf medical marijuana compassion center ascend montclair

{Photo credit: @ascend.nj}

Back in 2010, New Jersey signed legislation into law permitting the use of medical cannabis for those who were suffering from specific conditions including, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and muscular dystrophy, among other painful and terminal diseases. After three years of political debate surrounding licensing, production, and regulations, Julio Valentin and a partner opened the state’s very first dispensary in the heart of downtown Montclair. 

Julio had already established himself in the community, as a veteran of the Newark Police Department, and more recently as the owner of The Eclectic Cafe. The Greenleaf Compassion Center for Medical Marijuana opened in December of 2012 after much scrutiny — and also anticipation. 

For a decade, the demand for access to Alternative Treatment Centers like the Greenleaf Compassion Center grew immensely and in the last few years, the program has continued to see record growth according to the New Jersey Department of Health. Since 2018, the number of participating physicians has doubled, and the number of patients participating in the program has tripled. 

In May of 2020, Ascend Wellness Holdings entered into an agreement that would absorb Greenleaf Compassion Center and therefore, increase the company’s presence in New Jersey. Ascend is a vertically integrated operator (meaning they cultivate, manufacture, and dispense marijuana) based in Massachusetts with additional footholds in Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio, now adding New Jersey to the list. 

Read More: All About Marijuana Legalization in New Jersey

Chief Executive Officer of Ascend, Abner Kurtin stated to NJBiz, “Greenleaf is also one of four medical dispensaries in northern New Jersey, which has one the largest populations and most favorable consumer demographics. The New Jersey medical program is very attractive due to the limited number of recognized operators.” After receiving approval from the state department of health, they also announced plans to open a flagship in Hoboken and another retail location in Rochelle Park.

A few weeks ago, New Jersey became the thirteenth state to legalize cannabis for adult use after almost 70% of the population voted in favor in the 2020 election. Governor Murphy signed three pieces of legislation that {1} legalizes the for-profit sale and commercial cultivation of marijuana {2} removes civil and criminal penalties for adults in possession of six ounces or 170 grams of marijuana, and {3} defines underage penalties for possession of marijuana. Still, it could be a year before adults without a medical condition are even able to step foot inside a dispensary. 

The chair of the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association, which is made up of all the licensed medical marijuana businesses, told NJ.com they will be responsible for developing regulations alongside the Cannabis Regulatory Commission set to begin soon. 

Cultivators also need at least 3-4 months to grow new strains. In a statement released by the New Jersey Department of Health, the current administration is seeking to open at least 24 new Alternative Treatment Centers to meet the medical-use demand and have plans to approve permits for five new cultivation endorsements, up to 15 dispensary endorsements, and four vertically-integrated endorsements. 

At this time, Ascend is still a medical-only dispensary offering a broad selection of cannabis products such as pre-rolls, vaporizers, and topicals, among other items. With representation on the New Jersey Cannabis Trade Association, multiple locations in the area, and opportunity on the horizon, Ascend is in a very good position to capitalize on the rapid growth of adult-use cannabis that will surely unfold in the coming months.  

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