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1 Year After NJ Legalization Signed, No Legal NJ Cannabis

While adult-use legal NJ cannabis legalization was signed by New Jersey’s Governor Phil Murphy a year ago, the legal market is not open. It has left the industry and community frustrated.

“Though the adult-use market won’t be a reality for several more months, the change in the law had a more immediate and dramatic impact. It brought an end to mass arrests of cannabis consumers,” Murphy said to the cannabis advocacy group NORML.

Instead of “months,” Murphy said it might merely take “weeks” to open the legal weed market at existing medical dispensaries.

He noted no one is supposed to have been arrested for possession of six ounces or less of cannabis following the signing of the decriminalization bill.

“I am immensely proud that decriminalizing weed has led to a reduction of ridiculous arrests among communities of color. Social justice will continue to guide our ongoing efforts toward the establishment of New Jersey’s legal, recreational cannabis market,” Murphy added.

Opening a New Jersey Cannabis Market with Local Owners

NJ CannaBusiness Association (NJCBA) President Ed DeVeaux said he’s eager to see a New Jersey legal weed market with strong “Buy Local” principles. Since only two medical cannabis dispensaries are locally owned, he is not distressed.

“It is the legislative and regulatory intent to make sure that … Jersey applicants are successful during the growth of this industry,” he noted. “If you flip the switch on yesterday to create an adult-use market. There are only 12 organizations in the State that would benefit.”

DeVeaux argued that opening the market now would contradict the intent of legalization. A top priority of the NJ CRC is to help those harmed most by the War on Drugs. This includes minorities, women, and also disabled veterans.

“I know a lot of us advocating for a legal market for years are somewhat disappointed. The people the legalization effort was supposed to benefit would not benefit by flipping the switch yesterday,” he added.

While there are delays, the NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (CRC) has progressed toward the market with cultivation and manufacturing licenses. Adult-use dispensaries applications are also starting to be accepted on March 15th.

The CRC started accepting applications for cultivation, manufacturing, and operating labs on December 15th. The NJ CRC is meeting later today. According to their agenda, they are not prepared to announce the adult-use cannabis market’s opening.

The lack of a legal market has made many in the cannabis community frustrated at the constant delays. Many delays were caused by politics, lawsuits, and also the COVID pandemic.

Town Power and Medical Cannabis Dispensaries

The existing medical cannabis dispensaries and members of the NJ Cannabis Trade Association (NJCTA) are eager to sell legal cannabis. However, many have yet to figure out how to secure local approval.

Large cannabis corporations from elsewhere, the mega-corporations of cannabis, are called Multi-State Operators (MSOs). MSOs do not seem to grasp how powerful town governments are in New Jersey.

There’s a reason the biggest political conference in the State is held by the League of Municipalities.

While Verano threatened to lay off its workers publicly, they admitted to Heady NJ they also have yet to secure legal permission from their local towns. They did not return a follow-up email to confirm they had secured permission.

While Curaleaf wants to sell adult-use cannabis, its dispensaries are in medical-only towns.

The NJCTA did not respond to an email for comment by the time of publication.

Cannabis policy experts and activists have long assumed they would be allowed to sell in the legal cannabis market first.

While delays have become customary and expected, the libertarian-minded cannabis market has flourished since the official interpretation language of the legal cannabis referendum said sales would start on January 1, 2021. This market has been meeting the demand for a legal, adult-use cannabis market.

CBD vendors selling Delta-8 THC products, which get you high through a loophole, have also met the demand. Legalization has gotten complicated.

While all the constitutional entrepreneurs, with the possible exception of NJWeedman, are eager to be licensed, some are being arrested for operating openly.

The problem remains how to integrate such entrepreneurs into a legal market in the wake of the problems of the most visible actors.

The issue is especially pressing. Legitimate small businesses in the California legal cannabis market struggle with the costs to start and to operate that come imposed by the State.

In contrast, the well-established de facto California cannabis industry operates without the need to comply with regulations. It almost appears to be doing better than those that are following the rules. 

The NJCTA does not like such operators.

The New Jersey medical marijuana market has grown to about 125,000 patients securing medicine from 23 locations operated by 10 of 56 New Jersey licensed weed companies. Forty-four medical marijuana companies were OKAY’d last year.

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