Marijuana dispensaries in New Jersey were busy this weekend with customers eager to get their hands on cannabis products as legal recreational sales of the drug began statewide. On Friday, a woman outside a Maplewood pharmacy rejoiced aloud that she had “survived Prohibition!”
Among the crowd of patrons were people who had trekked across the Hudson River from New York City, where recreational sales are not allowed. Were these early signs of some sort of “reverse bridge-and-tunnel” effect, with New Jersey emerging as a new hot spot for weed aficionados and curious cannabis users?
“The only reason I came to Jersey was literally to buy legal weed — that’s the truth,” said Ethan, a 29-year-old man from Manhattan who refused to give his last name because he didn’t want his employer to know that. he was there. , on Saturday. “To buy it legally and not have to trade through the illegal channels makes it easier. Even though it’s a premium, it just feels better.”
Ethan, who rented a Zipcar with a friend for the trip from New York to the Pharmacy Pharmacy in Maplewood, said he had no plans to hang out in the area other than “smoking a J on the street.”
The relationship between New Jersey and New York is close but contentious, with suburban New Jersey often portrayed as less glamorous than the fast-paced city life. But anyone waiting for New Yorkers to flood into New Jersey probably shouldn’t expect a reverse pipeline to develop anytime soon, especially after New York City decriminalized the use of the drug in recent months.
Eric, a 45-year-old Newark resident who works in Manhattan and queued to buy weed on Saturday, said he expected mostly people with cars to make the trip.
“But not the ones who take the subway because it’s too much,” he added. “New York, they’ve got some stuff going on there, and people are using that.”
Crucially, there are currently no operational pharmacies in nearby Hoboken and Jersey City that were the facilities to offer recreational cannabis, according to the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission.
Those areas are accessible from Manhattan via a $2.75 PATH train ride. A pharmacy in Secaucus, although not far from a PATH station, only sells medicinal cannabis.
Statewide, there are 13 licensed recreational sales pharmacies. While many of them are accessible from New York City by car or extended trips aboard New Jersey Transit, none seem ready to capture the affairs of New Yorkers casually crossing the Hudson for an afternoon of weed.
Hoboken is set to open its first pharmacy this spring, but that location has not filed for an expansion to offer recreational sales, according to the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. Applications are pouring in from Jersey City.
In response to a reporter who asked if he had traveled to New Jersey from New York City, a man Saturday outside a Rise pharmacy in Bloomfield replied, “Yeah, okay, I’m going to talk about how I smuggle weed back to New York. .”
DeVaughn Ward, a senior legislative councilor with the Marijuana Policy Project, said legal concerns about transporting marijuana from state to state were well founded, but he did not believe law enforcement in states that have decriminalized marijuana are concerned about its origins. .
“The FBI is not the one blocking traffic,” Mr Ward said in a telephone interview. “Weed is legal in New Jersey, it’s legal in New York. I think law enforcement in those particular states will be mostly focused on personal property, if you’re disabled, things that break the law in that individual state.”
Aside from human trafficking concerns, New York legalized recreational marijuana last year and will begin sales later this year as the state licenses retailers, prioritizing those convicted of a marijuana-related offense or a family member. have been. Medical marijuana has been legal in New York since 2014.
Some establishments have found loopholes, including offering BYOC – bring your own cannabis – at events. There is also the ‘grey market’, according to Mr Ward, which includes giving customers a joint when purchasing another item, as exchanging cannabis as a gift between adults is now legal under New York law.
And of course there is the so-called legacy market, as some refer to the old-fashioned street dealers who have been selling cannabis or cannabis products since the dawn of Prohibition.
“I think those two combinations — the legacy market, the medical market — you may not see the huge numbers from New York to New Jersey,” said Mr. Ward.