The New Jersey adult-use cannabis program is off to a halting start, with the launch of sales hamstrung by repeated delays.
Now a top lawmaker in the Garden State wants answers, and is working hard to get them through the work of a committee.
Nick Scutari, the president of the New Jersey State Senate, said Tuesday that he is forming a special legislative committee to look into why legal pot sales still haven’t begun in the state.
“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.”
In a press release, Scutari’s office said 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,” as well as to find out “what can be done to meet the demands and reduce the costs of medical marijuana.”
In 2020, New Jersey voters overwhelmingly approved an amendment to legalize recreational pot use for adults aged 21 and older. However, there has still not been anything put in place when it comes to actual movement on legalization.
Last year, Scutari helped author and pass legislation designed to implement the adult-use program.
But the new cannabis program has been beset by repeated delays since that bill was passed, including a missed deadline in September to begin accepting applications from would-be cannabis cultivators, manufacturers and testing labs.
Last month, after New Jersey regulators missed a deadline for recreational pot sales to begin, Democratic Governor Phil Murphy indicated that the launch was coming soon.
“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 said during an interview on a radio show. “They’ve got to prove they’ve got the supply for their medical customers. I hope shortly thereafter, the standalone recreational marijuana operators.”
But that plan hit a snag last week, when the New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission declined to award licenses to eight medical cannabis dispensaries hoping to sell adult-use cannabis.
Jeff Brown, the executive director of the commission, said that the panel would like to receive additional information from those medicinal dispensaries regarding how they will have enough product to serve both sets of customers.
“We may not be 100% there today, but I assure you we will get there,” Brown said last week. “We have a few things to address and when we address them I’m happy to return to this body with a further update.”
In the meantime, Scutari wants to get to the bottom of the delays. His office said Tuesday that his plan is to “form a bi-partisan special committee” and then ask “the Assembly if they want to participate to make it a joint panel of legislators from both houses.”
“The oversight hearings will include an accounting from CRC officials and input from those operating cannabis businesses or waiting to get licensed, as well as others involved in the legal marijuana market,” the press release from Scutari’s office explained.
“The voters approved adult-use recreational marijuana in 2020 and the implementing legislation was enacted more than a year ago. The Cannabis Regulatory Commission missed its deadline for allowing [medical cannabis dispensaries] to sell to the recreational market. The licensing of growers, distributors and retailers to serve the adult-use market has been plagued with repeated delays. Senator Scutari said the committee’s membership and scheduling will be worked out soon.”