NJ Cannabis Media: Garden State Canna Collective motivated to help patients, economy

Every one of the 146 applicants tried to demonstrate to the New Jersey Department of Health that they are uniquely qualified for the six Alternative Treatment Center licenses that will soon be issued.

The management of Garden State Canna Collective is no different.

It’s just the team, led by CEO Jason Kabbes, points to three elements that they feel makes them stand out and apart from the other applicants.

1. Location.
2. Motivation.
3. Impact.

Location: Kabbes looked west and applied in the North Region for an operation in Phillipsburg, on the Pennsylvania border.

Kabbes, a scientist with licenses in Oregon and Ohio, was drawn to Phillipsburg since he began considering an operation in New Jersey in December 2017.

And for his New Jersey partners, the location made perfect sense.

“We think geography is an important part and a distinguishing part of this application,” said Lee Vartan, an attorney at Chiesa Shahinian & Giantomasi PC, who worked with GSCC on its application. “It’s a huge under-served population in northwest New Jersey.”

With the two dispensaries currently operating in the North region located in Secaucus and Montclair, a venue on the other side of the state would help meet the Department of Health’s mandate to provide access to medical marijuana. In addition, it’s an economically distressed area with an under-employment problem.

“From my perspective, it’s outrageously necessary to see a business – not a governmental entity, not a not-for-profit – who was taking this opportunity as a responsibility to serve this community,” says Charles Rosen, a co-owner and head of the company’s Fair Employment Outreach.

Motivation: In addition to providing access to medical marijuana to the Phillipsburg area, Kabbes is focused on sharing the wealth that comes from the operation by balancing the need to turn a profit and his desire to share his success.

“You do both well by keeping in check what me as an owner and founder am personally expecting back from the business. A lot of owners and CEOs might want back three pieces of pie instead of having just one piece of pie,” Kabbes says. “If I could potentially have three pieces of the pie, I just keep one for myself, give one to those I’ve placed in ownership position so they have a position of empowerment and one slice for the community. That’s a better scenario for me.”

That thought process is how he came up with the company name – Garden State Canna Collective.

“We’re a true cooperative between cannabis industry professionals and New Jersey locals,” he adds.

It’s that view that attracted Carl Evans, who helped found the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey, to join the operation as Director of GSCC’s Advisory Committee for Economic Justice.

“Part of what we are interested and what impressed us with Jason was he came to homes and talked about what community needed,” he says.

Impact: How does Kabbes give back – share the pie?

Eighteen-percent of GSCC is owned by local residents who received equity interest through sweat equity agreements rather than having to buy in.

In addition, he’s sourcing capital from New Jersey, “because I want the money to be recycled in the local economy. I want their profits to be reinvested here.”

“This emerging category looks like a get rich quicker or get richer,” Rosen says, “Jason’s priority is how does he create a viable business based on benefits to the community? So his success does not come at the expense of the community, but is connected to the community.”

From the workforce to patients to vendors and suppliers, there’s a “holistic view how this business can help a struggling economy in western New Jersey,” he continues.

This article was originally published in NJ Cannabis Media on November 9, 2018.

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