NJ medical centers given green light to sell recreational weed

It’s been 1,619 days since Governor Phil Murphy took office promising legal weed in the Garden State and we may only be weeks away from the start of sales.

Thirteen medical marijuana dispensaries will soon be able to sell marijuana to any adult 21 and older after the state’s Cannabis Regulatory Commission voted Monday to approve New Jersey’s first foray into the recreational marijuana industry. .

The commission’s decision to allow existing dispensaries to sell to recreational customers comes as the state’s recreational weed market remains stalled, with state officials saying they don’t want to open the market. before it’s ready. Hundreds of retailers have applied to open recreational dispensaries, but none have yet been approved.

It’s unclear when sales will begin at medical marijuana dispensaries — also known as alternative treatment centers — since their owners still need to apply for and acquire retail licenses.

Jeff Brown, executive director of the cannabis commission, said there was no specific timeline, but expects sales to begin within weeks.

“It doesn’t have to be 30 days. It may be less. It can be more,” he said.

New Jersey voters approved the legalization of marijuana in November 2020.

The commission was expected to approve some retail licenses at its last meeting on March 24, but the vote was delayed, leaving many cannabis users disappointed and the president of the state Senate calling for legislative hearings.

At the March meeting, Brown said dispensaries were about 100,000 pounds short of the amount of marijuana needed to meet demand from all medical and recreational users.

Now, just three weeks later, the commission has said that as long as medical dispensaries ensure patients aren’t harmed by the increased demand for the weed, they can also sell to recreational users.

Brown said each of the centers has proven they have enough marijuana for the 130,000 registered medical marijuana users as well as recreational users.

Officials at each alternative treatment center spoke at Monday’s meeting to explain how they would keep medical patients as their top priority, citing exclusive parking spaces, special entrances and hours, separate menus and home delivery plans.

Licensed dispensaries will need to meet a few requirements, pay an expansion fee, and obtain their licenses before they can begin selling to recreational users. Brown said he plans to meet with their representatives on Tuesday to expedite the process.

Dianna Houenou, the chair of the commission, abstained Monday from every vote approving certifications that allow centers to sell recreational weed. She said she remains concerned about long lines and overcrowding and expects medical centers to work with the commission and local authorities to manage pent-up demand.

Some advocates say they fear the process will be rushed. Chris Goldstein, a Willingboro resident and longtime proponent of marijuana legalization, said that with a handful of cannabis stores serving the entire state, high prices and supply shortages have plagued the market. State Medical when it launched 10 years ago could see a comeback.

In a statement, Scutari said it would continue legislative review hearings to better understand future delays and impediments that could further impede recreational sales.

New Jersey CannaBusiness Association President Edmund DeVeaux called the vote “a victory for so many in our state.”

“Looking forward, it’s critical that we ensure medical and adult-use cannabis is available and affordable to New Jerseyans,” he said in a statement.

The commission also approved 34 conditional licenses for growers and manufacturers on Monday, bringing the total approved licenses to 102. Officials expect it will take a year for those operations to become fully functional.

The next committee meeting is May 24.

Edward N. Arrington