Two medical marijuana dispensaries opened last week in Ardmore and Vineland, and another is set to launch next month in Center City, creating dozens of jobs and millions in infrastructure investment in the Philadelphia region.
The grand opening of the Beyond/Hello cannabis shop in Ardmore on June 12 was muted because of the pandemic and a fortnight of civic unrest that erupted nationwide after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis.
For Beyond/Hello’s parent company, Jushi Holdings, the new store represents a major investment along one of the Main Line’s most vibrant business corridors, even as many commercial enterprises remain shuttered due to COVID-19.
“We spent $1 million to build out that store and we‘re hiring,” said Erich Mauff, president of Jushi Holdings, the Florida-based parent company of Beyond/Hello. “Who else can say that during these times? It’s real money going into the real economy and creating real jobs.”
More than 80 medical marijuana dispensaries are in operation across Pennsylvania. In May, those cannabis retailers generated nearly $2 million in tax revenues for the commonwealth, according to state records.
And the number of retail stores selling medical marijuana is set to more than double — to 198 — once all the state’s permittees are up and running.
Next month, a Sunnyside dispensary is slated to open on the 1100 block of Chestnut Street in Center City. Sunnyside, operated by the Chicago-based Cresco Labs, is also sinking about $1 million into the new storefront on a stretch that was heavily damaged by looters after months of being affected by the virus.
“It’s not just the construction trades that have benefited,” said Charlie Bachtell, Cresco’s Chicago-based founder and CEO. “Commercial real estate agents, law firms, accountants and design firms have all had a hand in preparing to launch this.”
Bachtell said he intends to hire laid-off restaurant and hospitality workers to fill positions at the Center City location and at two additional dispensaries Cresco plans to open in Southeastern Pennsylvania. “The skill sets they have are perfect for both our production facilities and for retail and customer-facing jobs.”
Mauff and Bachtell were eager to emphasize that there’s more to marijuana than serving ill patients and generating tax revenues, in interviews earlier this month.
“If 110 more stores open, you’re talking at least $100 million in investments at an average of $800,000 a store,” said Mauff, a former managing director at Deutsche Bank. “Each of those stores will need at least 15 employees. So you’re talking about thousands of jobs.
"It’s interesting to me how that point doesn’t seem to get much airtime,” he added.
With record unemployment and pressure to legalize marijuana for adult use in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey, that’s almost certain to change.
Many in state and local government in Pennsylvania are looking to legalize adult use to help fill a $5 billion budget hole exacerbated by the pandemic. Illinois, which legalized weed for recreational use on Jan. 1, has generated more than $10 million in tax revenue every month this year.
According to Mauff, if Pennsylvania “flipped the switch” and allowed medical dispensaries to become adult-use retailers, “each store would go from 15 employees to 30. Your employees double because sales would triple.”
New Jersey is also salivating at potential tax revenues if the state’s voters approve a ballot measure to legalize marijuana for adult use in November.
Columbia Care opened its first Garden State dispensary on June 11 in Vineland, bringing the total number of New Jersey dispensaries to 11. The company plans to harvest its first cannabis crop in July at its 50,000-square-foot cultivation facility nearby.
Expansion is built into the Columbia Cares business plan in New Jersey.
“We intend to overbuild in our manufacturing and cultivation and use a similar model for dispensaries that we’ve used in other legal markets such as Massachusetts,” said Nicholas Vita, founder and CEO of Columbia Care. “Once we’re fully built out there I estimate we’ll have invested more than $10 million."
Columbia Care already operates three dispensaries in northeastern Pennsylvania in Allentown, Wilkes-Barre and Scranton.
He anticipates a total workforce of up to 130 people at the new South Jersey cultivation warehouse. “And it will be meaningful work — skilled labor, high paying and with benefits," Vita said. "We’re providing career paths, not just jobs.”