TRENTON – New Jersey’s legal-marijuana regulators approved operating license applications for 15 recreational cannabis businesses Thursday, a milestone first in the state’s efforts to expand the new industry.

Since sales of marijuana for recreational use by adults began in April, it has been available only through existing medical dispensaries that got approval to expand their operations. There are 19 such businesses open, and one of the nine current medical-only dispensaries – Curaleaf in Bordentown – got approval Thursday to expand soon.

Recreational-only businesses have been receiving conditional licenses that allow them to continue pursuing local approvals and locations – 801 to date, including 297 OK’d Thursday. But those don’t allow those businesses to operate, as that requires annual licenses.

Fifteen businesses now have those approvals, although that doesn’t mean they’ll open soon. They will still need to provide information about their finances and operations to the state Cannabis Regulatory Commission’s investigations and compliance teams before an operating license is actually handed over.

Eighteen license applications were approved, including three companies that are in line for multiple licenses for different types of operations.

Cultivators (8): Brighterside Canopy LLC of Mays Landing; Atlantic Cultivators of Staten Island, N.Y.; August Tenth Capital Investments LLC of East Brunswick; Hamilton Farms LLC of Weehawken; Herb-a-More LLC of Cherry Hill; Statewide Property Holdings LLC of Marlton; Sweet Side LLC, and Fuse Brands Inc.

Manufacturers (3): August Tenth Capital Investments LLC, Sweet Side LLC, and Fuse Brands Inc.

Retailers (7): Kind Kush of Cresskill; Leaf Haus LLC, Blackwood Wellness LLC, Lady M NJ LLC, Nirvana Dispensary LLC, Royal Highness Dispensary, SoulFlora Inc.

CRC executive director Jeff Brown called the approvals “monumentous” for the agency.

“This is the first cohort. This is the tip of the iceberg,” Brown said. “… This might seem like a small number but as I said, it’s the tip of the iceberg and we’re going to keep this moving forward.”

“The numbers may be small, but they’re mighty,” said CRC vice chairman Sam Delgado.

"It's my hope that all of these businesses get up and running as soon as possible because we need these businesses to be operational to help drive down those prices," said CRC chairwoman Dianna Houenou. "... And we need businesses to get up and running to help us boost some of the excise fee that can then get reinvested into New Jersey's communities in meaningful ways."

It is now nearly two years since New Jersey voters approved a constitutional amendment in a referendum that legalized sales of regulated cannabis to adults for recreational use. Lawmakers and applicants have expressed frustration about the pace of the rollout, as regulators carefully build out the industry and juggle a surge of interest from aspiring businesses.

In all, the CRC has received applications for 1,360 business licenses, including 741 retailers, 374 cultivators, 212 manufacturers, 10 distributors, 10 delivery companies, nine testing laboratories and four wholesalers.

The CRC also voted Thursday to raise the social equity excise fee paid by cultivators from the current $1.10 per ounce to $1.52 per ounce, starting in January.

That rate is determined by a formula that relies on the cost for recreational marijuana, which currently tops $450 per ounce.

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Michael Symons is the Statehouse bureau chief for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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