A year and a half after New Jersey residents voted to legalize cannabis, the state on Monday gave seven medical marijuana companies final approval to start selling their products to all adults, opening the door to the New Region’s first legal marijuana sale. York City within a month.
In a meeting held via video conference, the five-member Cannabis Regulatory Commission ushered in a seismic cultural shift, making New Jersey the second East Coast state to fully authorize the sale of cannabis to all adults.
For years, the state’s medical marijuana dispensaries had only been allowed to sell cannabis to purchasers with a doctor’s permission to use the drug as medicine.
Sales of adult recreational use may begin once each of the seven companies pays more than $1 million in fees for the extended licenses and meets other bureaucratic requirements to obtain a final license.
“The road there doesn’t have to be a specific length of time,” said Jeff Brown, executive director of the Cannabis Regulatory Commission. “It doesn’t have to be 30 days. It could be less. It could be more.”
The commission has licensed 13 individual dispensaries to be distributed throughout New Jersey, including several within a half-hour drive of New York City.
Officials said Monday that each of the cannabis companies had demonstrated that they had adequate supplies for both medical and recreational customers.
The companies also had to demonstrate that they had a strategy to ensure that patients are not deterred by the expected influx of new customers during the early days of legal sales in the densely populated region.
Adult retail stores that opened in November 2018 in Massachusetts, the first East Coast state to allow recreational cannabis sales, were overrun with customers.
“I do expect some heavy lines and heavy traffic around some of these facilities,” said Dianna Houenou, chair of the committee, after the vote to authorize the extended licenses.
Ms Houenou, who abstained from voting on the adult-use expansion, said she expected the pharmacies to work with the commission “and the cities in which businesses are located to ensure that local officials are well informed and ready.” for possible lines and traffic. †
Monday’s decision only applies to seven existing medical marijuana companies, which are mainly run by large multi-state and international cannabis companies.
Smaller business owners who also hope to open recreational cannabis stores in New Jersey have filed 327 retail license applications since March 15, but decisions on those applicants are not expected for another month.
Before the vote, officials from the seven cannabis companies explained plans to only offer patient hours at pharmacies and reserved parking spaces for medical marijuana customers.
“We’ll have plenty of supply,” said Dina Rollman, who leads government affairs at Green Thumb Industries, a three-dispensary medical marijuana company in New Jersey.
The store in Paramus will be reserved for sale for medical use only, she said. Green Thumb’s pharmacies in Paterson and Bloomfield — both of which are within 24 miles of Manhattan — will be open for medical and recreational sales, she said.
Last month, the committee postponed a decision on whether or not to allow medical marijuana stores to sell products to all adults, citing supply restrictions and other concerns. The delay sparked strong criticism from lawmakers eager to open up the adult recreational market.
Nicholas Scutari, a Democrat who chairs the state Senate and has been pushing for marijuana legalization for years, threatened to hold public hearings if recreational sales didn’t start soon.
“We need to kick-start the legal marijuana market in New Jersey,” Mr. Scutari said in a statement. “This has been a failure to fulfill the public mandate and to meet expectations for new businesses and consumers.”
In November 2020, voters in New Jersey approved a referendum in support of marijuana legalization; Several months later, lawmakers passed a law that legalized certain amounts of the drug and set general parameters for the new industry.
New York and Connecticut followed suit, partially legalizing marijuana as a way to close the wide racial divide in enforcement. (In New Jersey, for example, black residents were more than three times more likely than white residents to be charged with marijuana possession, despite similar use rates.)
The newly created cannabis commission has spent the past year fine-tuning the regulations that will govern the new industry.
In the past month, the committee also granted conditional approval to 102 companies that applied to grow or produce cannabis. These applicants must now find a location to operate and obtain approval from the host city before their conditional permits can be considered valid.