The New Jersey Department of Health announced on Monday that it plans to issue more than 100 new licenses for cannabis cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers to operate under the auspices of the state’s medical marijuana program, according to a release from the agency. The health department plans to issue up to 38 new licenses for cannabis Alternative Treatment Centers (ATCs) in both the northern and central regions of the state and up to 32 licenses for operators in the state’s southern region. The number of new licensees for each area was determined by population figures and the health department’s assessment of patient needs.
“Due to the growing patient population served by the Medicinal Marijuana Program over the course of the 2018 and 2019, and the projected future expansion outlined in the Department’s Biennial Report, the Department has determined that additional ATCs are necessary to meet the needs of the population of qualified patients,” the notice reads.
Product Shortages and Long Lines Under Current System
An increasing number of patients authorized to use cannabis medicinally in New Jersey has led to product shortages, high prices, and long lines at dispensaries. New Jersey Health Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal said that the additional licenses will improve access to medical marijuana for patients.
“We are at a point where patients just cannot wait any longer for easily accessible, affordable therapy. This request for applications allows for specialization of businesses to increase medical product in our state,” said Elnahal.
The state currently has six cannabis ATCs and last year selected operators for six more but has not yet licensed them. Plans call for issuing additional new licenses to up to 30 cannabis manufacturers, as many as 54 retail dispensaries, and up to 24 cultivators, which will be divided among three classes of operators based on size.
“By allowing for three sizes of cultivation endorsements (5,000 square feet, 20,000 square feet and 30,000 square feet), we are increasing opportunities for small and medium-sized businesses to participate in the program,” Elnahal said.
This is the first time the health department will issue separate licenses for cultivators, manufacturers, and retailers. All of the current licensees are vertically integrated businesses that produce and dispense their own products.
Number of Qualified Patients Increasing
The number of patients that qualify for New Jersey’s medical marijuana program has spiked over the last two years, according to state officials.
“In March 2018, the Department added five additional illnesses to the list of medical conditions that qualify patients for medical marijuana,” the release notes. “In January 2019, the Department added one additional condition, Opioid Use Disorder. Since the addition of those conditions, which include two types of chronic pain, anxiety, migraine, and Tourette’s syndrome, the program has added 30,000 new patients, bringing the total patient count to 47,500 as of today.”
The Department of Health will accept applications for the new cannabis business licenses beginning on July 1 and will accept them until August 15. The department did not say when the new licensees will be announced, but the selection process could take months, according to media reports.