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A former employee of Ascend Wellness Holdings is suing the multi-state cannabis operator, claiming she was harassed and discriminated against by management because of her race and unfairly fired.
The ex-employee, who is Black, filed the lawsuit in Passaic County against Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc., its subsidiary New Jersey Management Group LLC, and two employees. The lawsuit accuses the defendants of harassment and discrimination during the woman’s time employed as a packaging associate at Ascend facilities over the course of approximately one year.
Exclusive documents obtained by Bloomberg under New Jersey’s Open Public Records Act show that the state cannabis regulatory commission issued citations to seven companies from January 2020 through mid-April 2022, when marijuana sales broadened from medical to recreational. There were a total of 54 alleged violations.
Excerpt from public documents on New Jersey cannabis citations.
Earlier this month nearly two dozen budtenders (the job title for those who help customers at marijuana dispensaries) at Ascend Montclair Dispensary signed a new three-year contract offering health benefits and wage increases.
But they won’t be the only ones for long, predict those who are leading the charge to get cannabis workers unionized.
Innovative Industrial Properties, Inc. (IIP), the first and only real estate company on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE: IIPR) focused on the regulated U.S. cannabis industry, announced today that it closed on the acquisition of a property in New Jersey, and entered into a long-term lease with a subsidiary of Ascend Wellness Holdings, Inc. (AWH) at the property.
Ascend Montclair Dispensary workers have unionized, possibly helping set a standard for the thousands of workers expected to enter New Jersey’s budding cannabis industry.
On Monday, Feb. 7, Cannabis Engineers Extractors and Distributors — or CEED — Local 420 announced the ratification of Ascend’s first labor contract for the workers, known as “budtenders.”
Ascend’s Montclair workers are the first to seek CEED as their bargaining unit in New Jersey.
Ascend, which completed its initial public offering (IPO) in May, has operations in Massachusetts, New Jersey, Michigan, Ohio, and Illinois including its flagship retail locations. A pending investment in New York will give Ascend access to that market — one of the hottest new markets to approve cannabis for recreational use. The company looks to grow into other limited license recreational or near-recreational markets. Examples of such markets include Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia and Arizona.
Boston-based cannabis multistate operator Ascend Wellness Holdings, which operates in northern New Jersey, found that the area had “arguably some of the most expensive real estate, commercial real estate, industrial real estate, definitely in the eastern part of the country,” Chief Strategy Officer Frank Perullo said.
“As we started looking, we noticed that the prices were high regardless of the condition of the building – it was a market that was hot with or without cannabis.”
Still, out-of-state companies such as Ascend have secured real estate by:
“We fear New Jersey may not live up to expectations, at least initially,” Zuanic began.
New Jersey's cannabis sales are expected to start on Feb. 15 at the latest, according to an announcement from state regulators.
Referring to the NJ state cannabis commission as being “far from nimble,” approval of new license applications will be slow, said Zuanic, adding that the main concern is not only a sluggish start but a low number of shops. “Only eight stores for a population of 9 million, plus ‘visitors’ from Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New York.”
The decision about whether to allow recreational marijuana businesses in Montclair is coming down to the wire.
Montclair is already home to one of the states first medical marijuana dispensaries, Ascend, formerly known as Greenleaf. But if a package of proposed town ordinances passes, it would pave the way for several recreational cannabis businesses, including two retail shops.
Read the ordinances below: