Cannabis processing facility opens

VERNON. The business is the realization of Brian Dowling’s dream.

Vernon /
| 20 Mar 2024 | 08:50

Sussex Cultivation celebrated the opening of its cannabis processing facility in Vernon with a ribbon-cutting Thursday, March 14.

The business, which eventually will include the cultivation of cannabis plants in nearby greenhouses, is the dream of Brian Dowling.

“Our goal as a company is to prove our concept that ultimately gives the customer a better experience - it’s as simple as that,” he said.

“I was one of the first customers in New Jersey, and I wasn’t happy with the experience. We can’t change the entire market, but we’re hoping to spark an interest in new operators and try to change the way they do things to ultimately give the customer a better experience.”

The new facility will produce cannabis products under the Onyx label as well as process products for other companies.

Dowling thanked everyone who contributed to getting the business open. “If we had just done this as a family ... , we probably would have failed.”

His mother, Lori, a retired teacher, is the company owner, and his father, Chris, is chief operations officer. Chris also is chief executive of Nurses 24/7, a health-care staffing company based in Wayne.

“Witnessing this dream come true has been nothing short of amazing. It fills us with immense pride in Brian and the entire Sussex Cultivation team,” Chris said at the opening.

He thanked chief finance officer (CFO) Joe Bellantoni and his wife, Denise, “who have just done incredible things for us and are such an instrumental part in what’s gone on.”

The Bellantonis own a cannabis farm in Oregon. Joe is a former CFO and director at Crystal Springs Spa & Golf Resort and Mountain Creek.

Chris also thanked Mayor Anthony Rossi and former mayors Howard Burrell and Harry Shortway. Shortway was in office when the Dowlings brought their proposal to township officials.

”Without some guidance and help and understanding, this would not be possible. Your invaluable support has played a crucial role in bringing this all together,” he added.

Jobs, tax revenue

Rossi said he is looking forward to working with the new company, which is bringing jobs and tax revenue to Vernon. “You guys have done an amazing job.”

Burrell said Sussex Cultivation brings a new revenue stream to Vernon that can be used to reduce the tax burden on homeowners.

All cannabis businesses in New Jersey are required by state law to pay 2 percent of their gross sales to the municipality where they are located.

”The town desperately needs these additional tax dollars to pay the ever increasing costs of taking care of the almost 100 miles of streets and roads that the municipality is responsible for maintaining,” he said.

In November 2022, the Township Council approved an ordinance that requires that half of all cannabis transfer tax dollars be placed in a separate fund that will be used only for road maintenance. “That’s a game-changer for us.”

Burrell said he also was impressed by the high marks that Nurses 24/7 routinely receives for compliance with state regulations. “That’s what we really want. We don’t want some slapshot organization around here, we want people who are going to go by the law.”

More upscale product

The opening was attended by some of Sussex Cultivation’s potential customers: owners of cannabis retailers.

Chris Bello, director of operations at SoulFlora, said that retailer in Newfoundland plans to sell Onyx products.

”They’ve done a great job supporting us since we opened, so we’d just like to return that favor to them.”

Bello said he likes that Sussex Cultivation is a small cultivator, not one of the multi-state operators. “We do hope they’ll have a finer product than what’s available right now.”

New Jersey requires that all cannabis sold here has been grown in the state.

No one is selling seeds here yet, but the results of clone plants can be different depending on the growing conditions, Bello said.

He expects Onyx products to be more upscale than what is available now. Most of them will use rosin, which is a cleaner, purer cannabis extract that produces a better high.

”It’s a much more premium product, but for the health-conscious, it is a safer product as opposed to using alcohol or butane to extract (cannabis).”