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The NJ-CRC’s Complicated Relationship with Underground Cannabis Legacy Operators

The NJ Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJ-CRC) has said they want to give licenses to underground “black market” cannabis legacy operators. They also repeated the anti-legacy rhetoric Governor Phill Murphy (D) endorsed.

Moderate and conservative politicians pushed back on the New Jersey legacy operator market during the June oversight hearing of the NJ-CRC. Many of them were unhappy with the underground legacy market, in addition to the Delta 8/9 hemp issues.

New Jersey Cannabis Legacy Operator Issues

Thus, the NJ-CRC is now publicly criticizing the legacy market.

NJ-CRC Executive Director Jeff Brown acknowledged the issue.

“The NJ-CRC is committed to setting up a fair and equitable market. Offering opportunities for everyone, including educating and inviting in legacy sellers to the legal adult-use market,” he explained.

“It is also our responsibility to protect the integrity of the market by promoting licensed, compliant businesses and to protect consumers by educating them about all the risks associated with purchasing unregulated products,” Brown added.

Thankfully, the NJ-CRC wasn’t given police power and troopers to go after legacy cannabis operators in the state’s cannabis laws.

Many in the legal cannabis industry think New Jersey could become a Western-style cannabis market. They perceive that too many cultivators, legacy operators, and home grow flooded the market. It reduces the price of cannabis to $100 an ounce and limits profits.

When you have invested a lot of time and money in a business, protecting the things that harm the process makes sense.

But while the West is flooded, Jersey remains desert-like. Home grow is still a felony and few licensed New Jersey cannabis growers open.

Anti-Legacy Rhetoric from the NJ-CRC

In a recent newsletter, the NJ-CRC acknowledge the price of legal cannabis is too high in New Jersey. They also criticized the legacy market and promoted the legal New Jersey adult use cannabis market it’s their job to foster.

cannabis legacy operators NJ-CRC legal New Jersey adult use cannabis

They also pointed out the merits of acting within the law.

But many have been outside the law for a while in cannabis and made good money. A great many patients felt better due to good legacy medicine.

The only thing Brown has said about addressing the high price is that they want more dispensaries and cultivators to enter the market and increase competition. Eventually that should lower the price. Thus, they have a strong faith in Capitalism versus their ability to regulate the price.

The speed of New Jersey cannabis dispensaries opening has indeed rapidly increased. However, the quality and range of products remain fairly limited.

It’s a lot easier to open up a dispensary which is just a fancy and secure shop, like a jewelry store. An indoor cultivation operation takes more money and time to set up.

They also praise containers that are difficult for children as well as adults with butter fingers and arthritis to open.

Longtime cannabis consumers are not worried about things that those on the fence and the opposition are concerned about. Cartoon mascots that amuse adults and children are not considered a probelm for example by many in the community.

The NJ-CRC also noted some New Jersey adult use cannabis tax revenue is going to address social issues. Those who care the most about price are indifferent, if not against it.

Compromises had to be made to make the “whore marijuana” into the respectable “Lady Cannabis” and accepted by moderates.

While many people like the idea of labeled cannabis as if they were Nutrition Facts on a cereal box, the legacy market has operated for decades without them.

Certain rules in the legal New Jersey adult cannabis market make it hard to identify quality cannabis products in dispensaries.

Legacy operators often encourage you to smell and see their quality cannabis flower for sale.

A longtime cannabis connoisseur can analyze the nature of flower. For example, the puffier it is, the fresher and better it is. As flower ages, it shrivels and shrinks.

Quality cannabis flower can look frosty. The frosty effect is from tiny trichomes. While potent medicine, it’s delicate and falls off.

You have no idea what products look like inside dark plastic bags.

Red tape prevents potential legal New Jersey adult use cannabis customers from smelling the product they are about to buy. This is a great problem since terpenes in cannabis are what give it its smell and contribute to its effects.

The legal New Jersey cannabis companies operate in a limited market controlled by a few you coud argue is a cartel. Limited competition does not incentivize them to cultivate the best flower for the best price.

Multi-State Operator (MSO) cannabis corporations have sold cannabis with mold, which causes sickness.

Thankfully, Brown reacted quickly when Heady NJ raised the issue in 2021.

New Jersey Adult Use Cannabis Market Barriers to Entry Problems

Very high barriers to entry into the market keep New Jersey cannabis legacy operators out. The need for capital or money, real estate, and local political approval has hindered many.

However, it seems the NJ-CRC understands the nature of the barriers to entry. They are working with the NJ Economic Development Authority (NJ-EDA) on a pilot program to address access to money issues. They also seem to be devoting more energy to addressing town problems.

However, New Jersey towns have enjoyed a lot of independence and power for more than 100 years. So convincing them one by one is very difficult.

Other issues like mainstream businesses refusing to do business with a plant touching and some ancillary, connected business like Heady NJ remain difficult for the entire state legal cannabis industry.

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