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New Jersey Recreational Dispensary Sales Boom While Ownership Questions Remain

New Jersey recreational dispensary sales for the first quarter of 2024 increased 38% over the same time last year. But local ownership questions remain.

Sales from January 2024 to March 2024 totaled more than $201million. From last January to March 2023, sales were generated by 24 licensed NJ recreational dispensaries.

The number increased by 96 to 130 licensed dispensaries open by the end of Q1 2024.

The pace of openings has become so quick that sometimes multiple dispensaries open on the same day.

“The significant growth in sales year over year is an indication of the strong potential of New Jersey’s cannabis market,” declared New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) Executive Director Jeff Brown.

“We anticipate that as even more dispensaries open across the state, new brands are introduced to the market, and cannabis becomes less stigmatized, sales numbers will continue to go up,” he argued.

4/20 Helps New Jersey Dispensary Sales

New Jersey recreational dispensary sales also hit historical highs the weekend of the cannabis holiday, 4/20. On Friday, April 19, New Jerseyans bought $4,028,365 in recreational cannabis flower and other products. New Jersey cannabis consumers then topped that figure on Saturday, 4/20, with $5,219,294.

In addition, Sunday, April 21 was the second anniversary of the New Jersey adult-use cannabis market opening. So the weekend closed out with about $3 million more. That led to approximately $12.5 million in recreational and medicinal cannabis sales for the weekend.

Brown was encouraged by the numbers.

“We are very excited to see all the new, local businesses that have come online and are able to participate in this thriving market,” he explained. “I’m particularly proud that we have been able to support this progress while remaining committed to fairness, equity, and safety.”

“The rising sales figures demonstrate a shift in consumer behavior as more people are choosing the safety and reliability of the regulated market over untested or questionable products,” said NJCRC Chair Dianna Houenou.

Local Ownership Questions

There definitely is great progress to celebrate. But, it remains unclear how many licensed cannabis companies are majority-owned by New Jersey residents.

Unfortunately, the NJCRC told Heady NJ it could not provide the statistics due to the law.

“Your request requires the Commission to look at individual application materials to locate and provide the data. Application materials submitted to the NJ-CRC are confidential and are not considered public record,” NJCRC Public Information Officer Darrah Pilieri wrote in an email. “NJSA 24:6I-36(d)(5): “Application materials submitted to the commission pursuant to this section shall not be considered a public record pursuant to PL 1963, c. 73(C.47:1A-1 et seq.), P.L. 2001, c. 404(C.47:1A-5 et al.), or the common law concerning access to government records.”

The NJCRC, by law, only has to report statistics on minority, women, and disabled veteran ownership. They should be praised for making good progress on those numbers.

The catch is that a minority, woman, or disabled veteran could also be from out of state. They might not want to be called an MSO.

By Heady NJ’s count, about a third of the licensed cannabis dispensaries, manufacturers, and  cultivators are owned by small and large corporate Multi-State Operators (MSOs)

One would like to believe that the remaining 2/3 is locally owned.

For perspective, the medical cannabis program under former Republican Governor Chris Christie became majority-owned by large MSOs. This trend continued under Governor Phil Murphy (D) under the 2018 medical cannabis expansion.

Local Ownership Laws in the NJ Cannabis Market

By law, a local must own at least five percent of every licensed New Jersey cannabis company. But five percent doesn’t make you the majority owner nor the boss.

Some New Jersey cannabis companies must be locally owned. Licensed businesses located in Impact Zones and Economically Disadvantaged Areas (EDAs) must be owned by locals who live in the area.

Impact Zones are towns especially hit hard by the War on Drugs. EDAs are neighborhoods that were hurt economically, especially by the War on Drugs.

Social Equity licenses must be held by someone impacted by the War on Drugs who is a New Jersey resident of an EDA who makes less than a certain amount of money.

In addition, at least 25 percent of the total licenses must be issued to microbusinesses which contain a residency requirement.

Figureheads and Pawns in a Shadowy Industry

New Jersey cannabis industry professionals and entrepreneurs privately speak of many rumors of consultants and small MSOs making deals with local owners to make them mere figureheads and pawns in exchange for the money needed to open.

There is talk of deals where local entrepreneurs must sell out between opening and five years.

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