PATERSON, NJ – After learning more about New Jersey’s medical marijuana program, Asia Rollins decided to apply for a job at Rise Paterson, a dispensary that opened last December in the city. Now, on the cusp of one year on the job, Rollins is on the way up at one of the fastest growing companies in a fast-growing industry.

Rollins, a newly-promoted assistant general manager, said, “I am in love with the cannabis industry and once I learned I can help people with major health conditions, I decided to do more research.” With experience as a certified nursing aide at Daughters of Miriam, a nursing home, Rollins is no stranger to the healthcare field and said she is driven by a desire to help others.

At Rise Paterson, she said, her favorite part of the job is “being able to help and care for someone other than myself.”

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Green Thumb Industries (GTI), a national cannabis consumer packaged goods company, was given the green light to open its Paterson location in 2018, allowing it to cultivate and dispense medical marijuana.

Known for its reputation of giving back to the community, a mission that includes hiring locally, GTI is making good on its promise. Prior to its grand opening, GTI held job fairs in the city to help fill positions needed at the dispensary and attracted dozens of Patersonians, including Rollins, who were eager to learn about the company.

Of the first 11 hires, eight – including Rollins – are from Paterson. After starting out as a patient care specialist, Rollins worked her way up to shift supervisor. The lifelong Paterson resident was recently promoted, an achievement she said “feels good” because it’s a recognition of the hard work she puts in, day in and day out.

But, she added, “a promotion is just a title – I just really love what I do for a living.”

Devra Karlebach, GTI’s chief executive officer for New Jersey, said they saw something special in Rollins and knew that Rise Paterson could be the perfect place for her to grow professionally. “We invested in her and she invested in us,” Karlebach said. “She’s fabulous. We have been grooming her. The sky is the limit if you do the work. She’s very dedicated – someday I see her as a store manager.”

GTI was recently named a Best Workplace by Crain’s Chicago Business and as a top workplace by MG Retailer Magazine. Besides creating jobs for the local community, GTI seeks to give employees opportunities to advance once hired, Karlebach said.

“We like to open up positions to internal candidates first,” Karlebach said. “If we can’t fill internally, we go outside.” Reflecting on the first year-and-a-half in business, Karlebach said, “We have great patients, the city has been great and employees are great. Everyone is doing their part.”

Rise Paterson is GTI’s first New Jersey store and 37th in the U.S. It’s also the seventh alternative treatment center (ACT) for dispensing marijuana for medical use in the Garden State.

Leading up to the store’s opening, Ben Kovler, GTI’s founder and chief executive officer, thanked New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy and Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh “for their leadership, vision and commitment to the medical cannabis community.”

He also said GTI was “honored to bring jobs and tax revenue” to the city and state, and look forward “to being active, involved members of the community.”

“At the center of every plan the Sayegh Adminstration brings forward is the potential for job creation,” Mike Powell, Paterson’s Director of Economic Development said. “Whether it’s GTI, Protective Health Gear, the development of the former Paterson Armory site, or any of the other development projects coming to fruition are opportunities for residents.”

Since Murphy took office in 2018, New Jersey’s medical cannabis program has grown to include more than 1,000 participating physicians, 2,400 caregivers and 64,000 patients. Under the program, there are 17 qualifying conditions, including anxiety, opioid use disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic pain.

Rise Paterson, the state has said, helps provide residents in northern New Jersey with better access to medical marijuana needed to treat their conditions. 

Prior to Rise Paterson’s opening, patients only had two other ATCs nearby: Harmony Dispensary in Secaucus and Greenleaf Compassion Center in Montclair.