Cannabis Watch: Verano cannabis cultivation takes root in massive ex-retail space as legal industry gears up

by | Dec 23, 2022 | Stock Market

Behind the beige walls of this former 120,000-square-foot Walmart store in Branchburg, N.J., blooms an emerald green indoor cannabis farm for multi-state operator Verano Holdings Corp. After winning a permit in 2018 from the New Jersey to supply cannabis for the Garden State’s medical program, Verano’s
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cultivation facility now grows and processes jars of dried flower, pre-rolled cannabis cigarettes, gummies and vaping oil for the company’s Zen Leaf dispensaries in the state.

Verano currently operates three adult use dispensaries in New Jersey in Neptune Township, Elizabeth and Lawrence Township.

Exterior of Verano grow facility housed in a former Walmart

Steve Gelsi/MarketWatch

Verano’s 200-employee cannabis cultivation facility operates as one of many in the overall cannabis industry that’s expected to total $26.5 billion in 2022 as “robust consumer engagement with the category has driven strong unit growth,” according to Cowen analyst Vivien Azer. This year both legal and illegal cannabis production in all forms in the U.S. is expected to approach 49 million pounds, according to data from Whitney Economics as reported by MJBizDaily. The study projects legal cannabis sales will grow to $81.6 billion by 2030, up from about $29 billion this year. For producers, however, prices of cannabis have been coming down amid a glut in supply. The volume-weighted average spot price of cannabis in the U.S. for the week-ended Dec. 16 fell 26.9% to $950 per pound, according to Cannabis Benchmarks data cited by Cowen’s Azer. Also Read: Amid steep inflation, one thing is getting cheaper: cannabis Also Read: Voters approve cannabis use for adults in one red state, one blue state All of this makes larger scale and efficiency more important than ever for companies such as Verano. The company provided a press tour on Dec. 15 led by Verano Chief Investment Officer Aaron Miles. When approaching the building from the parking lot, a fragrant smell is detectable. It doesn’t smell skunky like burning cannabis at a rock concert at all. The aroma is more like fresh cut grass or a type of flower, which is what consumable cannabis is made from. From just outside the retail store doors, the resemblance to a Walmart vanishes, as the front entrance gives way to a big wall and a security door where the grocery carts would have been kept. Instead of a Walmart employee greeting shoppers, a security guard stands guard over the area and shows guests through another wall and a second inside door. Just past that is the heart of the operation for the human component of the facility, with offices, employee break rooms and bathrooms. Walls inside the building break up the former retail spa …

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