TRENTON – Nearly a dozen New Jersey marijuana dispensaries are finishing up preparations in advance of starting adult-use recreational sales Thursday morning.

Thirteen of the state’s 23 medical dispensaries have permission to start adult-use sales Thursday, but at least two of those – in Deptford and Vineland – will delay their debut. The state Cannabis Regulatory Commission hasn’t yet published the official list of when each dispensary will begin recreational sales.

In advance of the expansion, Matt Darin, the United States president for Curaleaf, the nation’s largest cannabis company in terms of quarterly sales, said in an interview the company has “been preparing for quite some time” to begin sales in what’s expected to be a multi-billion-dollar market.

The company will add recreational sales at its medical dispensaries in Bellmawr and Edgewater Park. Operations can’t expand immediately at its Bordentown dispensary, but the company is working to get zoning approvals so it can expand its scope there, too.

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He expects out-of-state visitors, in particular from Pennsylvania, to help power sales in New Jersey and disagrees with the contention that medical marijuana prices are uncharacteristically high here.

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An abbreviated version of that interview follows:

Anything special planned for opening day?

“Yes. We open at 8 a.m., and we’re going to be ready to go. Have a bunch of fun activities planned for people that are going to be waiting to access the dispensary with some food and giveaways, things like that.”

Your company operates in 23 states. In your experience, are there big crowds on opening day?

“Every market is a little bit different but, yes, generally the first day of launch is a pretty big event. A lot of pent-up excitement for the launch, so we generally do see a lot of people that come visit on that first day. But I think we also expect it to continue to be active in the coming weeks as well. So, while Thursday is going to be a very exciting day, I think we expect to continue to see a lot of people in the coming weeks and months as well.”

Who are the customers for legal adult-use sales – experienced cannabis consumers or newcomers?

“It’s a wide spectrum. It is those that do certainly have experience in cannabis of various ages and backgrounds, but we also get the canna-curious, as we call them, that are new to cannabis and now that it’s legal and available for adults to come access, we get a lot of people that do come in that do not have experience and are in their early exploration in finding where it fits into their lifestyle needs.”

How significant could New Jersey’s recreational cannabis market become?

“There’s a lot of excitement about the New Jersey market, regionally and nationally. It’s a large state, almost 9 million residents, and also borders some neighboring states that are currently only approved for medical, such as Pennsylvania. I think we’re expected it to be a very robust market. In general, these markets do take time to mature and form, and so it’s not going to happen right away. But I think as the market matures over the next few years, it’s certainly expected to be a multibillion-dollar adult-use market here in the coming years.”

Is ’cannabis tourism’ a real thing?

“I do see that that has been a trend in other states. When you do have adult-use that is launched and you’ve got neighboring states that may not have that available for adults, you do residents from those states that will travel sometimes long distances to come be able to access legal cannabis. So I think given the close proximity of Pennsylvania as one example, I think we do expect that there will be certainly people that come visit either on their normal travels or maybe as a destination to come visit and check out what New Jersey has to offer.”

Studies have found New Jersey’s medicinal marijuana prices are among the highest in the country, for some kinds approaching $500 an ounce. Will that come down?

“Based on the maturity of that market and it being a medical market transitioning to adult-use, I would say we have not seen the pricing in New Jersey be different from other similar markets, especially those in the eastern half of the United States. I would say that the pricing in general has been fairly comparable to what you would see in other similar markets. I do think as the markets mature and you have more licensees that enter the market and more dispensaries that open and more product that becomes available, you do see a trend over time where the prices will kind of continue to settle. But I would not characterize it as being out of the norm for what we see in other markets.”

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