By Brenda Flanagan
In Belvidere, rows of spring herbs and flowers flourish in climate-controlled greenhouses.
It’s all run by a company called Terra Tech that’s cultivating plans for a much bigger cash crop. Instead of marigolds, they want to plant marijuana — right here in Warren County.
“We hope one day this will be turned into a marijuana cultivation warehouse. We’re ready to grow it within 48 hours’ notice in any of our facilities,” said Evan Nison.
It’s not pipe dreams, claims the director of Terra Tech’s Northeast Cannabis Division. The California-based company envisions 10 acres of thriving marijuana plants — growing both bumper crops and company profits.
They just invested $5 million to expand the cutting edge facility here from automated seeding to computer-operated irrigation — using conveyor belts.
“We’re using natural sunlight. There’s nothing like it,” said Steve Vande Vrede. “Better than artificial.”
Terra Tech’s ready to roll, except it’s currently illegal to grow marijuana for anything other than medicinal purposes here in New Jersey. They know attempts to legalize weed farming for recreational use hit a big obstacle.
“It ain’t happening while I’m the governor,” Chris Christie said.
And Gov. Christie’s dug in, even though New Jersey desperately needs the extra tax revenues. In fact, that’s the main reason Sen. Nicholas Scutari’s sponsoring that bill to allow growing weed for recreational use here. Colorado collected $2 million in sales tax on marijuana in January alone.
“I don’t believe legalizing an illegal drug for the purposes of government profit is something we should be doing,” Christie said.
“We’re just waiting for the governor to leave. He won’t be the governor forever. And when he leaves, we plan on being able to capitalize on this and provide the economic benefit that it brings,” said Nison.
Terra Tech’s not looking to expand operations in Colorado or Washington — states where growing marijuana for recreational use is already legal. They say the market there is already saturated.
The firm’s already got facilities like this one up and running in Florida and Indiana — and it’s eying Nevada. Investors have pushed the NASDAQ-listed company up from a dime to a buck a share over the past couple months. It could become the first publicly-traded marijuana company.
“Our whole model is to do this in a responsible way to local consumers, because we want to see a responsible cannabis industry,” Nison said.
Terra Tech’s pesticide-free — and it’s working to get certified organic — hoping marijuana will one day join blueberries and cranberries as a signature crop in the Garden State.