Max and Lauren Thompson making career of cannabis
Couple opens dispensary in New Jersey
When sharing why they chose to get into the cannabis business, Max ’12 and Lauren (Chang) ’12 Thompson could give the socially desirable answer: they want to help people. They could also provide a less filtered response: they like cannabis.
Both answers are true!
Max and Lauren left law and nursing respectively to open a dispensary in Hoboken, N.J. Blue Violets aims to become one of the state’s leading dispensaries by focusing on quality, consumer education and community impact.
“We believe in cannabis as plant medicine and we’ve been watching the industry grow,” Max says. “Before we decided to do this, we visited dispensaries in other states to enjoy the plant but also see what different stores were like. While we saw things we liked, we always had ideas of how things could be improved.”
It’s not the career path they had in mind at Binghamton. The couple, who met as students, mused about opening a business, and ideas ranged from child care to bubble tea to a nurse practitioner’s clinic.
“When it looked like New Jersey would pass its referendum to legalize cannabis in 2020, the timing was just right and we had a sincere interest in the product with some decent ideas, so we decided to put our resources together and take this one step at a time,” Max says.
Two weeks before graduating from the then–Decker School of Nursing, Lauren accepted a position at the telemetry unit of Lourdes Hospital in Binghamton. A year later, she moved
to New York City, where she practiced in critical care, home health for seniors in low-income communities and as a school nurse. Burned out from the pandemic, she transitioned to telehealth before joining Weill Cornell’s COVID-19 vaccine effort.
During his second year at Benjamin Cardozo Law School, Max interned at the New York State Department of Financial Services in the Office of General Counsel. He stayed throughout his remaining time in law school and began his career there as an Excelsior Fellow. He left in 2017 and has been mostly practicing in-house with high-growth fintech companies, working on cryptocurrency and new financial products.
“Interpersonal care has always been my favorite part of nursing and I wanted to pivot my skills to continue to care for the community,” Lauren says. “Through nursing, I’ve been able to help connect, impact and heal people. Cannabis is truly a plant medicine with many benefits, and I personally am a medical consumer. I also bring years of retail experience into our store. While attending Binghamton, I worked at Hollister and American Eagle at the Oakdale Mall.”
“I’m a consumer and I wanted to start this dispensary for the same reason I wanted to be a lawyer: to interact with and help my community,” Max says. “I’m using my legal and business experience to help us thrive in this highly regulated industry, managing back-end, administrative and corporate matters.”
The most formidable challenges for the Thompsons have been navigating the state regulatory system and finding a storefront. New Jersey municipalities had most of the summer of 2021 to decide if they were opting in, so the Thompsons had to wait that out, then determine where zoning was friendly to their venture.
“We got really lucky when we found our location, 628 Washington St. in Hoboken,” Max says. “We like to say it was a sign because Lauren’s birthday is June 28!”
“We’re so proud that Blue Violets is an AAPI- [Asian American and Pacific Islanders] and woman-owned business,” Lauren says. “People who identify as AAPI are the least represented group in the cannabis industry today, with even fewer AAPI women.”