The 2019 medical cannabis license Request for Applications (RFA), a process that began 27 months ago, is going resolved on Friday according to the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC).
It has been one of the biggest impediments to New Jersey cannabis.
One hundred and ninety-six applicants responded to the medical cannabis license RFA, but 46 were disqualified. They filed a lawsuit criticizing the nature of the application process. Rather than settle the lawsuit quickly, the NJ Department of Health (DOH), which oversaw the medical cannabis license process, let it play out in the courts.
The problem was the NJDOH eliminated several applicants due to minor technical reasons. Medical cannabis license applications were rejected because the NJDOH had problems opening their PDFs. The applicants argued they were corrupted after being sent through the NJDOH’s digital portal.
The NJODH said they investigated the issue and found it was the applicants’ fault the files were corrupted. Thus, they were subsequently disqualified. The NJDOH ultimately won the lawsuit.
Thus, there are now 150 eligible applicants for the 24 medical cannabis licenses. The applicants have been forced to pay rent on locations that have largely remained empty this whole time.
Thus, about 134 cannabis license applicants have been wasting money paying rent on an empty location in hopes of winning a license.
However, they are not all competing for the same medical cannabis licenses. Five cultivation licenses will be awarded to two applicants in North Jersey, two applicants in Central Jersey, and one applicant in South Jersey. Fifteen dispensary licenses will also be divided among the three regions. In addition, one vertically integrated cannabis corporation for each region will be allowed for a total of 24 medical cannabis licenses.
A range of prominent cannabis policy experts has said behind closed doors for fear of reprisal that the New Jersey cannabis market operates like a cartel that has no incentive to put out more competitively priced products of a higher quality. The resolution of the 2019 process would help bring an end to that cartel.
Since the adult-use interim regulations were announced in August, little has occurred in New Jersey cannabis. The last NJ CRC meeting was filled with people very critical of the 2019 medical cannabis license process.
Adult-use Cannabis Meeting Thursday
Before the 2019 medical cannabis license meeting on Friday, the rescheduled meeting the Cannabis Regulatory Commission was going to hold for adult-cannabis license applicants and towns will be held this Wednesday the 13th at 7 pm.
The meeting is supposed to guide both those who would like to apply for a license and the towns that are still crafting their ordinances.
Several towns are working on their ordinances and will finish them by the end of the year. The list of towns includes Camden, Princeton, South Orange, Maplewood, and Dover, among others.
Several towns wanted guidance. While the adult-use cannabis referendum enabling legislation lays out how towns can regulate cannabis, as of yet, there is no one mechanism and process being recommended by the CRC or other parts of the government.
Thus, the process varies wildly on the local level. Bayonne, for example, was eager to enact an ordinance that many cannabis policy experts have criticized for their high application and annual fees. Other towns such as Jersey City and Newark passed expansive ordinances that allow many licenses and have few barriers to entry.