I had the absolute pleasure of sitting with Rohan Marley, passionate entrepreneur, son of reggae legend Bob Marley and a now-partner with Lightshade – a highly decorated Colorado-based consortium of eight dispensaries recognized by LeafBuyer, Leafly, Business Insider, Westword and Rooster for excellent customer service, products and pricing – to discuss Lightshade’s venture into New Jersey.

Lightshade was supported by CSG’s Cannabis Law Group on its application to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in Montclair as part of the New Jersey Department of Health’s 2019 RFA.

The full interview follows.

Rohan Marley, Lightshade

Lee Vartan: Tell us about Lightshade, and what is your role in the venture?

Rohan Marley: I am very proud to be a part of Lightshade Labs Montclair.  It is a joint venture between one of Colorado’s premier medical and recreational dispensaries, Lightshade Labs, and a number of community and business leaders in New Jersey.  Lightshade Labs Montclair is the ideal marriage of nuts-and-bolts operational experience with an appreciation for the uniqueness of New Jersey and Montclair in particular.  That is what makes our application to the State so compelling.  My primary role is to broadcast our message of bringing high-quality medical marijuana to patients in need in Montclair, Essex County, and beyond.

LV: What brings you to New Jersey? Montclair, specifically?

RM: I have deep ties to, and family in, nearby South Orange. That said, it would give me personal satisfaction to bring much-needed relief to the good people of Essex County – a place where I have deep-seated roots and memories.

Beyond that, the joint venture includes several members with ties to Montclair.  We view Montclair, its vibrant downtown, and proximity to some of New Jersey’s largest population centers as the ideal location for a medical dispensary.  We also believe that Montclair’s existing Alternative Treatment Center (“ATC”) is a benefit rather than detriment to our application.  With the addition of Lightshade Labs Montclair, Montclair will be one of, if not the only municipality in New Jersey with two ATCs, and will be quickly recognized by patients as the town most welcoming to them and their medical needs.

LV: Applicants have touted a range of community reinvestment and social equity programs as part of their local involvement: what are Lightshade’s plans? How did you go about securing community support?

RM: Lightshade’s plans are simple: to hire locally and invest in the community.  I was attracted to Lightshade because we are committed to undoing some of the harms wrought by the unequal enforcement of New Jersey’s drug laws.  Where possible, we plan on hiring individuals with previous records who have rehabilitated themselves.  And our plan is not simply to hire employees; it is to help incubate future cannabis entrepreneurs.  We are already in talks with community leaders and local colleges to host job fairs and initiate other outreach efforts to make it known that Lightshade Labs is focused on giving back to its host community.

LV: One of the catalysts for the expansion of ATCs in New Jersey is the imbalance of patients and supply. How is Lightshade positioned to help resolve this issue?

RM: This is where the nuts-and-bolts expertise of Lightshade Labs is so critical.  If we receive a license from the State of New Jersey, we are fully prepared to call upon Lightshade Labs’ years of experience and quickly open our doors to patients in need.  The State awarded a number of ATC permits last December.  None of those awardees have yet opened their doors.  That will not be the case with us.  We have the support of the Mayor, the Town Council, and the Montclair Business Improvement District.  With their support, and Lightshade Labs’ experience, we are prepared to start dispensing medical marijuana within 3 months after we are awarded a license.

LV: If not selected in this round, what are Lightshade’s future plans in New Jersey?

RM: Right now, our sole focus is to be awarded a license, open our doors, and be recognized as the best dispensary in New Jersey.  If we do that—and I am confident that we will—future expansion will be easy.

LV: Bonus question: Jamaica is known for its world-class beaches, but so is New Jersey. Which is your go-to on the Jersey Shore?

RM: That is no doubt the toughest question.  I have a few favorites, but so as not to completely avoid your question, I would probably go with Pt. Pleasant Beach—can’t beat that boardwalk food, especially the fries.