The New Jersey Cannabis Regulatory Commission (NJCRC) updated the public on the status of the delayed adult-use cannabis market.
NJ CRC Executive Director Jeff Brown provided an update on the process of allowing the existing medical cannabis dispensaries to sell in the adult-use cannabis market.
“Eight certifications are under review. Five have been deemed complete,” he noted.
Brown said they are in touch with the three companies with incomplete applications.
He did not specify which companies were in what stage of the process. There are ten companies currently operating medical cannabis dispensaries at 23 locations.
“I hope to have updates on that,” Brown said.
He noted cultivation and manufacturing license application acceptance has been occurring since December 15, 2021.
“Initially, with these applications, we anticipate we’ll need more than 90 days to review. Our goal is to get as close as we can and eventually beat that 90-day clock,” Brown said. “I can commit to that, especially on the conditional licenses.”
He noted that the application volume and their staffing issues limit the CRC’s capacity to review them quickly.
Brown noted that they are operating under the new adult-use cannabis rules that are dramatically different from the old system. They allow for reviewing applications on a rolling basis and the ability for applicants to revise errors that might have otherwise disqualified them.
“They’ll go to that same priority level,” he noted once the changes are submitted.
Brown said 86.5 percent of applications thus far are conditional versus 13.5 percent annual licenses. Annual licenses are those with a location secured.
Thus far, 2/3 of the applications have been for cultivation and 1/3 manufacturing, and some labs.
He noted applications updates are in review.
“We hope to have some very positive updates in the near future,” Brown said.
“We want to see New Jersey’s industry reflect the diversity of our state,” NJCRC Chair Diana Houenou said. “We want businesses, small, medium, and large. We want to see businesses spread across our state.”
She noted among those they have met with are Legacy Operators on how to support those seeking to transition to the legal market, veteran’s groups, and municipal officials.
Houenou stressed that state applications fees for New Jersey cannabis licenses are among the lowest in the country. She also described the application process prioritizing those with marijuana-related convictions, certified minority and women-owned businesses, and those from Economically Disadvantaged Areas.
“We want aspiring cannabis entrepreneurs to picture themselves in New Jersey’s cannabis industry,” she said.
Houenou encouraged people to share such information.
“Our goal is to… provide priority access to this new industry,” Brown said. “We are making tremendous progress.”
“We want to be transparent about our application process,” he added. “We really stand at a crossroads here.”
He noted the prioritization review of the license system.
2019/2021 Medical Cannabis License Winners
Brown addressed concerns about the lack of a Black winner from the 2019 medical cannabis application round. After the initial news created when the NJ African American Chamber of Commerce claimed there were no Black winners, Heady NJ found multiple Black cannabis dispensary winners.
He noted that of the 43 accepted awardees, 19 are solely women-owned, 11 are solely minority-owned, and 11 are both women and minority for a total of 22 minority-owned cannabis companies. Two companies have no certification.
Brown did not break down the types of minorities that have won.
While 44 licenses were initially awarded last from a process that started in 2019, there are 43 awardees currently.
“One dispensary awardee has not accepted that award,” Brown said.
They were going to be located in South Jersey.
He explained they are still investigating the details of the 43 winners. Their licenses are conditional upon verification of a range of information on the businesses and the operators.
Concentrates Allowed in Medical Cannabis Market
The NJCRC voted to approve cannabis concentrates in the market
Browns noted the medical cannabis market currently allows topicals, lozenges, oil, and flower.
“We’re proposing to provide a waiver of those limitations on products,” he said. “We’ve heard from both industry and patients alike on the need for this.”
He explained concentrates are products where solid cannabis is extracted from the flower, like wax, rosin, and shatter. He did not mention Rick Simpson Oil (RSO), which is an effective concentrate.
“For a patient who might want a fasting product who doesn’t want flower or a vape cart, this could provide a high and effective dose in one inhalation,” he said.
“In order to take advantage of this waiver we will only approve ATCs (Alternative Treatment Centers) … provided that they engage a third-party lab to do their product testing,” Brown said.
NJCRC Commissioner Charles Barker noted many patient advocates and stakeholders have expressed a need for medical cannabis edibles.
“I definitely look forward to working with you all on this,” he said.
“I think there is plenty of room for the Commission to do that work,” Houenou said.
Brown noted there are kitchen health issues that need to be addressed.
“I am confident that we can work through those. Yes absolutely. Our goal is to continue to work to offer more products to patients,” he said.
Cannabis Tax Revenue Hearings to be Held
Barker noted there are forthcoming hearings on the use of state adult-use cannabis market tax revenue. There will be one for each region of New Jersey; North, Central, and South.
“We were extremely excited to let you know we are beginning these hearings next week on March 2,” he said.
The first meeting will be for North Jersey. The second meeting will be on March 9 for Central Jersey. South Jersey’s meeting will be on March 16.
“All hearings will be virtual and will take place between the hours of 7 pm and 9 pm,” Barker said.
He has previously noted that he believes this will allow more people to participate.
“One of the driving forces of cannabis… is the ability to use the revenue… to help the communities most harmed by the War on Drugs,” Barker added.
The NJCRC also voted to approve an official symbol for adult-use cannabis market products.