More than a year after voters there approved a referendum to legalize recreational pot, and following a series of delays to the launch of the regulated market, adult-use cannabis sales are finally set to begin in New Jersey in the coming weeks.
On Monday, the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission “gave seven medical-marijuana companies approval to start selling their products to all adults,” the New York Times reported, which sets the stage for recreational sales to begin at those businesses within the next month.
Per the Times, recreational, adult-use sales “are permitted to start as soon as each of the seven companies pays upward of $1 million in fees associated with the expanded licenses and satisfies other bureaucratic requirements to gain final approval.”
In total, the Cannabis Regulatory Commission “authorized 13 individual dispensaries, which will be scattered throughout New Jersey, including several that are within a half-hour drive of New York City,” according to the Times, although the “exact timing for the first legal sales and the locations of each of the 13 medical-marijuana dispensaries remains unclear.”
“The path to get there does not have to be any specific length of time,” said Jeff Brown, executive director of the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission, as quoted by the Times. “It doesn’t have to be 30 days. It can be less. It can be more.”
The breakthrough for the commission on Monday ended frustratingly for New Jersey officials and lawmakers who were trying to get the state’s adult-use cannabis market off the ground.
In 2020, 67% of voters in the state approved a ballot question to legalize cannabis for adults aged 21 and older. But the ensuing 16 months were beset by delays and setbacks as the Garden State tried to iron out rules for the new regulated cannabis market.
The Cannabis Regulatory Commission did not begin accepting applications from prospective cannabis businesses until November — two months later than when the panel was supposed to start the application period.
In February, after the state missed a deadline for the regulated market to launch, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy indicated that cannabis sales would start within a month.
“If I had to predict, we are within weeks — I would hope in March — you would see implicit movement on the medical dispensaries, some of them being able to sell recreational,” Murphy, a Democrat, said at the time. “They’ve got to prove they’ve got the supply for their medical customers. I hope shortly thereafter, the standalone recreational marijuana operators.”
But after March passed with no recreational sales, some legalization advocates in New Jersey wanted answers.
Nick Scutari, the president of the New Jersey State Senate, said recently that he intends to start a special committee that will look into why the recreational market has taken so long to launch.
Scutari says that he wants “explanations on the repeated hold-ups in expanding medical dispensaries to sell recreational marijuana and in the opening of retail facilities for adult-use cannabis,” and to determine “what can be done to meet the demands and reduce the costs of medical marijuana.”
“These delays are totally unacceptable,” Scutari said in a statement. “We need to get the legal marijuana market up and running in New Jersey. This has become a failure to follow through on the public mandate and to meet the expectations for new businesses and consumers.”
With Monday’s vote by the Cannabis Regulatory Commision, the launch may finally be near for New Jersey.
According to the Times, the commission said that each of the businesses that won approval on Monday “had demonstrated that they had enough supply for both medical and recreational customers,” and that they had shown “they had a strategy for ensuring that patients are not edged out by the expected flood of new customers during the early days of legal sales in the densely populated region.”