A sixth medical marijuana dispensary will be operating in New Jersey by the end of the year after the state granted a long-delayed license to the Harmony Foundation on Thursday to grow cannabis in Secaucus. The nonprofit beat out 19 competitors for a permit in 2011, but final operating approval had been delayed ever since.
The facility will be housed inside a 10,000-square-foot portion of "a big light-industrial building" outfitted with a state-of-the-art indoor greenhouse and processing equipment, spokeswoman Leslie Hoffman said. It will employ about 35 people.
Patients should be able to buy medical marijuana at the Alternative Treatment Center by early December if the group's products pass all of the required state tests.
Hoffman said the North Jersey center will be the first growing and dispensing facility operated by the group. Led by CEO Shaya Brodchandel, who has a background in nuclear medicine manufacturing, the Harmony Foundation has hired a grower from California with 20 years of experience in the cannabis industry.
At the time it applied for the license, the Harmony Foundation's board of directors consisted primarily of Russian-educated business executives. The company underwent a regime change, and the board and managers are now "completely different," Hoffman said.
"There are no Russian citizens," Hoffman said. "Everyone is a U.S. citizen, and three of four are New Jersey residents. There are no Russian lenders or backers in any form. There was one, and that person was replaced in 2013."
She said Harmony Foundation has no out-of-state affiliations with other U.S. marijuana businesses.
According to the Department of Health, changes to the organizational structure had slowed license approval. In December 2014, the state began an examination of principals, corporate structure, and funding sources. After the probe, the group added new principals and investors, and those required additional background checks. The state spokesman said the identities of the new principals and investors could be obtained through an Open Public Records Act request, a process that typically takes 30 days.
About 13,200 patients have registered with the medical marijuana program in New Jersey. According to the state Department of Health, only 475 doctors have signed on to write recommendations for cannabis medicines.
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